top of page
Story: Innovation in an association of management
The board of an
association of management consultants wants to innovate, to play a role as sparring partner in
social issues in the Netherlands, like innovation of the public sector.
They adopted innovation as theme of the year 2004. With a group of
four members we started a workforce to investigate the questions: "How
did this organization deal with innovation so far? What crucial, noticeable results in the past
can be marked as innovation?"
We talked a lot about our approach. Time
was a restraining factor, since the investigators and the members of this
network organization have to perform this project in their spare time.
We decided to align as much as possible with events that were already
planned. Like the annual marketplace, a workshop of theme groups, a
conference on innovation.
What we did:
- Study a lot of documents: annual
reports, newsletters, research reports
- Visit four insiders and one outsider
to note their stories on innovation in this association
- Discuss our observations in the
- Categorize observations and
- Make a two-column "building blocks"
document with notes and reflections
- Make a time line
- Make causal loop diagrams and flow
- Present elements at the annual
meeting (market place form, see photo); we invited members to
comment, verify and add their stories
- Present this further developed story
at a gathering of 45 key-members in the year theme innovation; some
board members were there
- Present and discuss this method at
the conference "organization of innovation" in a parallel session
- The method of qualitative research
appeared to be relatively unknown in this association, so the
members were pleasantly surprised
- The lack of a sponsor gives a lot of
freedom, independency, but brings also great tension between
ambition of the learning historians and available time
- We still have to discuss the
"history" with the board; there seems to emerge a cycle in the
desire to innovate that is linked to the economic cycle: In periods
of recession there is lot of time available, the ambition to start
new things rises, in times of growths attention is shrinking because
most consultants have a lot of work to do.
- Does the board want to know?
Driving forces in
dealing with innovation
in market stall