Company Dynamics and Stakeholders Involvement Through the Process of Innovation
For Mads Clausen Institute University of Southern Denmark SĂ¸nderborg
Ina Hristova Teneva
PRELIMINARY DETAILS CONTACT INFORMATION Ina Hristova Teneva Borgm. Andersens Vej 43, F7 6400 Sønderborg Denmark E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Mobile: +45 42 66 01 95
DOCUMENT CONTROL Prepared and Approved by:
Ina Hristova Teneva
* All Pictures, Tables and Graphics are developed by the author if nothing else has been stated.
PROJECT CASE ACADEMIC ADVISOR Vitfoss Ulsnæs 34 6300 Gråsten Denmark Phone: +45 33 68 56 00 Fax: +45 33 68 86 37 www.vitfoss.com
Henry Larsen Professor of Participatory Innovation Mads Clausen Institute for Product Innovation University of Southern Denmark Alsion 2, DK-6400 Sønderborg Denmark mobile: +45 24 77 89 77
CONTENT EXECUTIVE SUMMARY PREFACE Introduction Background Info The Scope of the Research Aim Company Dynamics Company Overview Timeline of the Movements of Change Strategy Shift in Vitfoss Consultancy Meeting Grounds Innovation Theories Participatory Approaches Complex Responsive Process of Relating Social Interactions Emerging Work Pilot Study First Set of Interviews Second Set of Interviews Adword Usage Research Recognising an Opportunity - Company’s First Workshop Persona Cards - The Tangible Outcome Measuring the Process - Follow - up Meeting International Dealers Inquiry Dealers Contest - A Platform for Comparison Mock-up Apps Discussions Making Sense in Change The Misleads in Idea Generation and Sharing Process Quality of Conversations Avoiding Conflictual Situations Gossip and Shadow Themes Researcher’s Struggles Conclusion Limitations Future Research
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY The project tends to explore how a big industrial company works with innovation. In collaboration with Vitfoss, a world-known premix manufacturer, a research about an App creation was carried out in a period of three months. Diverse stakeholders from business, marketing, management, partnerships have been involved in the process. The research aims to illustrate the impact of stakeholders and end users in different stages of innovation and get some insights in the generating and negotiating processes between them. Through interviews and other participatory activities with the employees, stakeholdersâ€™ involvement was intended. Their actual working practices and the influence they have on the processes of innovation are explored, acknowledging their reflections on working manners during the interactions. I consider all the themes that were uncovered - misleads about company processes, fear of speaking out and avoiding conflicts, gossip and shadow themes, the importance of quality of conversation influencing the processes of innovation and change in the company. Affected by the organisational dynamics of strategy shifts, which happened during the time of the research, I aim to explore how employees make sense and experience the concept of change. In light of the change, I measure the reflection of the stakeholders and their responses to the study of engaging them in the App creation. I aim to investigate and develop attention points in understanding the impact that change could have over the working processes and employeesâ€™ perspectives. Based on the theory of complex responsive process of relating, I lean on the understanding that innovation emerges from strategy shift situations/ change. I claim that through the spontaneity in conversations that times of change inevitably bring, innovation can be reached only if the opportunity is recognised. Changing the line of the conversations in the company enfolds in new meanings.
PREFACE The preface is a story of how this master thesis came into being, my personal background, and motivation and case opportunity, outlining what the main aim of contribution is. It also covers ‘thanks and acknowledgements’ to all the people who participated and were helpful during the research period.
Background Story Rather unusual for a preface to hold background information about the author, this section is essential for the understanding of the main objectives and struggles during the research. Having a Bachelor Degree in Marketing, Advertising and PR, where the claims of known and successful leaders are considered as guru ‘should–apply principles’, where I have been told not to question the validity, because of their success, one of the main objectives for me, as a researcher in this study, had been to overcome those learnt-by-heart statements. It was a challenge to go beyond these credos of how marketing should be done and to start questioning the originality of these expressions, until recently considered as undeniable facts by me. Currently, as a master student, enrolled in the IT Product Design master programme at University of Southern Denmark, Sønderborg, I have also been working part time in a marketing department in a big international company Vitfoss, Gråsten. During my education I have tried to implement theory and concepts from my new studies into my working practices at Vitfoss, a company that is constantly seeking for innovation and attempts to adopt participatory innovation practices. The idea of the master thesis came from a very informal talk within the Marketing Department about new methods and ideas for improving processes and work practices. Suggestions for new tools and channels how best to reach our clients and partners had been discussed and evaluated. I don’t recall at this point who brought up the App concept, but the important detail that I do remember is the reaction from everyone. They all agreed that the company should create an App, because of the opportunity that this can bring for the business because of the big usage of Apps around the world. What intrigued me was the fact that even if at that point, it was not clear for what needs the App should be created or for whom exactly, the potential of positive outcome was recognised by all, including myself. I also spotted the possibility to investigate and bring change to the practices of taking decisions and the way ideas are being implemented. For me, it was also a new chance to amplify the working practices within the company with the academic knowledge from my engineering education. I was interested in understanding what happens within the organisation that embarks on participatory innovation activities, and in particular how employees perceive such actions.
Subjective Experience As researchers, we try very hard to be objective and balanced in our enquiries and our writing. However, there is no such thing as totally impersonal objective research. Our emotions, values and personal experience will inevitably influence the processes of the assessment of the results and the selection of methods. As I have carried out a research in an organisation of which I am part of and already have status and role, the study was exposed to extreme case of having unintended potentially subjective effect on the outcome. The fact that I already knew the people, determined the way I conducted the research. I had the unique opportunity to become reflexive research practitioner and to include my subjective experiences from the past 18 months in order to get a rich in-depth understanding of innovation theory implemented into practice, which I consider valuable for the results of the project. However, although my background experience accounted for a good overview of the development process, I feel that, at the starting point of the project, the detailed reflection within me about the significance of the company processes was missing. Consequently, I now consider my experience with the App creation as a tool that helped me to obtain a better knowledge base about the company dynamics and employees’ objectives.
Dilemma/Uncertainty As an employee in Vitfoss, given the opportunity to conduct the project of App creation, but also given the trust to conduct a research among the employees and stakeholders in order to gather a relevant information, I was both concerned about the possible outcomes and the ways managers will approach this project and the final outcomes.
Writing Style As stated above, the gathering of information and conducting the research has been influenced by my personal subjective experience both participating in the working processes and having the background knowledge about the stakeholders. So, throughout the thesis, it only makes sense for me that the writing style should be in first person.
Thanks and Acknowledgements I want to start by acknowledging the many people in the organisation with whom I have worked over the period of employment and who decided to contribute to the conducted research. You all, one way or another shaped my project. I would then like to thank my supervisor - Henry Larsen for his support not only through the process of research and writing this thesis, but also for his help, knowledge and advices throughout all my studies in the M.Sc. engineering programme IT Product Design. He has been mentoring me through the whole two years journey and I will forever be grateful for his contribution to my professional and personal life. Additionally, I would like to say thank you to all the students that participated in our master students meetings along the process of our projects. I appreciated the diverse perspectives and constructive feedback. Their ways of motivating and inspiring me was as joyful as it was a valuable experience for me. Finally, I would like to thank the amazing management team in Vitfoss for their belief in me and unconditional support for my endeavours throughout the whole master thesis project, especially Kenneth P. Madsen and Anders S. Nielsen, who have spent significant amount of time helping and guiding me.
INTRODUCTION The act of innovation has been of innate need for organisations that seek growth on the global market. In modern design theories, the focus during innovative processes has shift from experts within the field through user participation, strongly expressed by participatory design concepts to the importance of involving stakeholders in the innovation process. But it can be difficult to create the involvement in industry due to time and budget limitations, distributed location, communication issues due to background and interest, etc. The role of the designer has also been progressing from the technical expertise and skills to his role as facilitator within innovative projects.
Background Info This paper looks at the context of the dynamics of a big industrial company, situated in GrĂĽsten (Southern Denmark). It is based on a project of developing a mobile solution to support end users and stakeholders, a research conducted in a period of 3 months. Diverse stakeholders from business, marketing, management, partnerships are involved in the process. The research aims to illustrate the impact of stakeholders and end users in different stages of innovation and get some insights in the generating and negotiation processes between them. The research have started with an inductive approach by focusing on the structure and the organisation within the company and aimed, through investigation by various research methods, to generate theory. It began by gaining a deeper understanding across and amongst stakeholders about their practices. I have followed the movement of the project, evolving as a result from the stakeholdersâ€™ involvement, their on-going negotiation and comments about concepts, ideas and developments. An understanding about the question of who has more decisive and influential role in the process of negotiating ideas and taking decisions was investigated. The background knowledge of the company is strongly orientated towards the concepts that product development and marketing efforts focus on meeting the local demand for savings services and that good product offerings and effective marketing will result in successful savings mobilization programmes that will lead to growth in the institution. Determining how to meet client demands, how to find out what users and potential users want in their savings services is thought as the first step to innovation within the company. Various sources of information are being used to evaluate products and services, including staff observations, client complaints, market research, competitor activities, and national financial market behaviour. When existing products do not meet the demand for savings services, new products are being developed to fill that gap.
The Scope of the Research Aim In this thesis, I address the issues stemming from my industrial experience in running innovation processes in times of strategic changes. I point out that part of understanding the process of user-driven and participatory innovation is creating awareness about the practical difficulties in applying the approaches. Although the company has strong insights and knowledge about users, user innovation remains undeveloped within the company at this point. Innovation among the employees seems only to be associated with new products, new materials. People seem to understand better innovation through tangible outcomes. However, what is also not easily recognised among the employees is that these new material products also change them, bending their working practices and shaping the way employees relate to each other.
The main theme in this research has been the tension between the emerging new strategies within the company during the time of the project and the way I have experienced that people actually deal with the processes of change. The insights were gathered through a careful reflection on their responses to the investigative activities for the App and their engagement within the process. I explore what happens when stakeholders come together in participatory sessions, but I also seek to articulate a detailed discussion on the reasons how efforts to bring stakeholders together may fail in an organisation and what are the step backs and the upcoming effects. During the study, I have also reflected on my own role within the process of innovation not just as a researcher but also as an active stakeholder. The core of my exploration is the research inquiry of:
“How can we support employees in making sense of the innovative possibilities during times of change? - does ‘times of change’
instigate some traits of ‘innovation’?”
A survey like the current one can sometimes leave the reader with more questions than answers. When applying a principle or a startegy in a company, a lot of organisatinal aspects should be taken into consideration. As Greener (2008) states in businesses, the issues are not so narrowly focussed. We need to understand things about people as managers, staff, customers and owners, about business entities such as companies and partnerships and co-operatives, about economies and how they affect business operations.
COMPANY DYNAMICS Company Overview Vitfoss is a dynamic and innovative company in Denmark, specialized in premixes, the main focus being on production and marketing of vitamin and mineral premixes to the feedstuff industry. It started as a small family business. The history of Vitfoss dates back to the early thirties of the nineteenth century, when the company started as a wholesale supplier of feedstuff in the southern part of Jutland. Currently, Vitfoss is part of the DLG Group, which is one of the biggest premix producers in Europe and the largest cooperative farm supply in Scandinavia. Vitfoss is also a part of an alliance with three other companies - Vilomix in Germany, Fodermix in Sweden and Calcialiment in France. Separately, each company operates in the market of the relevant country, but when it comes to international markets, they operate under a mutual name VILOFOSS. Vilofoss is among the three biggest premix suppliers in Europe. Vilofoss has a total of 14 factories producing vitamins and minerals under brands such as: Vitfoss and Stormøllen (Denmark), Fodermix (Sweden), Calcialiment and Encharm (France), Deutsche Vilomix (Germany), and Vilofoss (Russia and Poland). Vitfoss itself owns a number of companies in other countries. As an employee in the Marketing Department of the company, having so complicated structure, the way Vitfoss is dealing with the main stakeholders in the working process on a daily basis, has always been of a great interest to me, since it has been intriguing to observe working manners and how ideas are made into practice, trying to fulfil the requirements from DLG and at the same time - to implement the new initiatives among the other associates - Vilomix, Calcialiment and Fodermix. Updating colleagues and international dealers, which is of great importance for the international trading and marketing activities, has also a crucial role for both internal and external processes.
Timeline of the Movements of Change For a better understanding of the movements and the changes within the company during these three months of research, I have created a simplified timeline graphic to illustrate all the events and cases, which can be found on the right page of this chapter. In the beginning of February, during a company meeting, the employees were introduced to the new trends and strategies of the parent company for the next couple of years. DLG, as the 3rd biggest premix supplier in Denmark and among the seven big ones in Europe was aiming to grow its turnover in the next 3 years through three main aspects: • Internationalisation - intention to achieve an increasingly international mind-set in their daily activities. • Interaction - to focus on the interaction in their local organisations and across countries and companies - and sharing DLG´s enormous experience and strong market position. • Innovation - more keenly on being innovative: in relation to their own actions, processes and products and in their approach to customers and markets, not least in terms of their ability to be effective.
The 3xi strategy symbolises the three most important elements for succeeding in strategic development. The strategic goals in DLG for research and innovation definitely prevailed: • develop products that can be commercialised, and develop processes to increase profitability. • use university research as leverage in developing new products, technologies and business areas. • conduct research in collaboration with universities and research institutions • widen the recruitment base from various universities by collaborating on PhD’s, master’s students and bachelor’s projects • measure and quantify resources used for R&D
COMPANY DYNAMICS Strategy Shift in Vitfoss As the employees in Vitfoss later learned - the new strategies coming from DLG - keeping the market shares, expanding shares on other countriesâ€™ markets, expanding the turn over and make new initiatives for research and innovation, meant budget cuts. As a result, redundancy and uncertainty followed within the company. In connection or not, some people were made unemployed in different departments and the budget in the Marketing Department was set to be saved up to 19 %. Soon after the first official meeting, another one followed within the Marketing Department where the Marketing Manager and the Manager of Secretary, Customer Service and Marketing Departments had a talk with us in connection to the recent changes. We got informed that the budget cuts concern mainly us, as we are about to change some of our work practices, so we can meet the demands for budget savings. The new initiatives included decreasing the printing marketing materials and having more focus on web platforms for advertising and selling. The focus was said to be moved from the printing materials to website and online endeavours. It was also agreed to concentrate efforts in following up the outcomes of the campaigns and measuring up the results. Innovation was meant to be implemented both in daily basis working practices and in long-term notions and conceptions. Having started my research already, when the strategy shift was announced, I was particularly interested to find out how people make sense during these times of changes. Also, I seek to understand the way employees, managers, partners deal with the strategy shifting and what part that plays for the company dynamics. In times of informal sense making and gossiping among the employees, how the managers deal with the situation, how they handle the company in times of uncertainty and change also interesting to me. I was intrigued to discover if there is an awareness among the management about the importance of measuring and reflecting on these dynamics, because the way the change is seen and understood by the people is the way they talked about it among themselves.
The meeting also explored how employees deal and work with the topics of innovation and change. The question of how hard it is for people to shake off the good old working practices and to go for the new endeavours with uncertain results was raised. According to the consultancy people it is only natural at first for the employees to defend old strategies, but their consultancy experience is showing that with time the new practices grow on the workers, when these workers see and when they can measure the positive change, the point, the meaning that the new brings. I then realized that not only how employees deal with change matters, when it comes to innovation, but such endeavours like to ask questions, to raise a discussion among the company, to create an understanding and a constant awareness for the need of change, is also incoherent case. In that sense, one aspect of our adaptation in Vitfoss to the strategy shift is the realization of the need to communicate with our end users. I started to consider crucial for the process of innovation within a company the efforts to educate the users. Empowering them with information could result in gaining their trust in sense of an equal partnership for achieving mutual success. It is important for the long-term perspectives to gain their trust by telling the truth and giving them the power to become partners/equals, to change the power relations. Sooner or later they will be aware about the latest movement and sooner or later they will demand the new, so we might as educate them first and move forward together but in well-established partnership. These conclusions are linked to the suggestion of the consultancy people to look at the future App as a tool to raise awareness, to educate. It was on that particular meeting that I first realized why it was so hard to get the stakeholders within the organisation to move forward with the new trends. My personal understanding is that since it is a very conservative business which actually works the same way and through the same channels as 30 years ago, it might seem unnecessary to change the well - working practices. This could be one of the reasons that the need of change and innovation towards user-driven practices is not easily recognised by the management or by the employees.
GROUNDS Innovation Theories Fonseca (2002) claims that much of the discussion about innovation in the management and organizational literature is conducted from the macro perspective of markets and economics. For example, there has been a continuing debate about the relative importance of the market in triggering innovation, and technological development as the origin of innovation, on the other hand. For him thinking about the process of innovation in mainstream literature on the subject, it seems that there are two streams. First, some think of innovation as a rational, intentional, sequential managerial process. Second, there are those who understand innovation to be a social, political and behavioural process, reflecting the position of evolutionary economics. This second stream for Fonseca, only denies the ability of rational ways of achieving innovation. He summarize that the key features of the rational planning approach to innovation are the ways in which the origins of innovation are the ways in which the origins of innovation are located in the reasoning capacity of the autonomous individual, who takes the position of the objective observer and chooses the goals for a mechanistic system of a cybernetic kind, which then unfolds the innovation enfolded in its design. Fonseca refers to ’innovation’ as the primary goal, or intention, of an organization in a rapidly changing environment. It is left for managers to take a strategic position and continuously ’scan’ the turbulent environment. The neoclassical economics understand innovation to originate in the mind of the autonomous individual. That individual is assumed to produce innovative ideas through processes of rational, deductive reasoning about market needs and the goals that the innovation must satisfy to meet those needs. Another way of thinking of innovation concepts is highly rational planed view of how innovations come about and proposes an exception that has its roots in the evolutionary economics of Schumpeter. The origin of an innovation is still understood in terms of the autonomous individual, but now that individual is the heroic, intuitive entrepreneur, who challenges existing ways of thinking and doing, even subverting current legitimate structures. I can easily agree from the listed grounds above with the statement that there seems to be a widespread understanding that innovation is a planned, goal-oriented activity that can be propelled forward through well-facilitated events in which company’s employees collaborate with external parties (user in particular) and conversations aims at consensus about new products and services (Buur & Larsen, 2010). Objectivism (Greener, 2008) states that social entities (like organisations) have an existence, which is separate from the people in them. I argue that the atmosphere and the relationships, which are so important for the work processes in a company, are created only by the employees and even though there are common topics and issues in all organisations and companies, the specification of the people within certain company makes the issues unique. Constructivists also state that the organisation has no independent reality and that it is constructed in the mind of those who think about it. In this research, I have demonstrated that every time employees think about the organisation, the colleagues, the working issues, they are already constructing it into some kind of reality. Because, involving the stakeholders, provoking the people in the company to share their issues and worries about co-workers and the management, raising the questions that everyone is wanting but not saying, it already brings change. Only by making people aware of certain topics, they get more involved and even if we don’t see results right away, the provocations stays within people and make them behave most unusual in most common situations. Having articulated the discussion above, I come to disagree with the objectivist that an organization has an existence, which is separate from the people in them. Innovation cannot be the realization of any one individual’s intention, whether it is as a goal or a vision. How an innovation evolves depends upon the interaction of many people’s choices. In this sense innovation emerges in self-organizing interaction between many people. Innovations inevitably shift power relations and the ideologies that support them, raising the possibility of responses that will alter the meaning of innovation. Innovation is not simply new things or new ways of acting but transformations in patterns of meaning. Both individual and collective identities are patterns of meaning and innovation therefore transforms identities.
Participatory Approaches The researchers from SPIRE have come to understand innovation as a change in the practice of a larger group of people, in the light of emerging new meaning (Fonseca, 2002). Innovation is socially shaped and constructed by the people involvement, rather than the result of one singular idea fostered by ingenious individual (SPIRE, 2013). Participatory innovation can be described as a process of innovating through the mutual involvement of a multitude of interacting stakeholders. Participatory innovation is an approach that seeks to combine participatory design and design anthropology with a business orientation (Buur & Matthews, 2008). Participatory Design as a concept was born in 1970’s Scandinavia. The industry was forced to adopt new technology to meet globalized capital and markets. A successful participation can be achieved by actively supporting the participants’ skills (SPIRE, 2013). In the early days of participatory design, conflict was seen as an inevitable companion of the power struggle between workers and management (Buur & Larsen, 2010). Participatory design can be defined as the desire and the work to include the workers, which in the project case are called stakeholders, to articulate their needs and manage their tools to include them in the design process. Over time, participatory design becomes a mainstream `method`. The original participatory design tradition, conflictual intentions are seen as a key driver in the emergence of novelty. However conflict is part of normal and ordinary conversations. Gottlieb, Larsen and Sørensen (2013) state that in the interaction between many stakeholders the product finds the final form, and that they conclude that the differences and conflicts between the involved stakeholders have not just been constraining but also have been a driver for new solutions. This is a concept that Vitfoss as a company could benefit from, since the theme of conflict is seen as difficult and undesired issue, which everyone is trying to avoid instead of embracing the opportunities that could come from allowing one to disagree and negotiate ideas with others. From a company viewpoint, involving stakeholders and users is likely to generate knowledge that inspires employees and may also generate business opportunities. Ideas are cultivated differently in the different organisational environments. User-driven innovation – is when companies innovate through collaboration with users. Users are widely acknowledged as a valuable source of creativity and knowledge in the development of new products, especially in so-called ’’fuzzy front-end’’ (Wheelwright & Clark, 1992). I claim that Vitfoss is a ’’learning organisation’’ (Senge, 1990) and for sure the people in the organisation learn from each other. This is one of the debates that would follow in the next chapters about stakeholders’ involvement.
GROUNDS Complex Responsive Process of Relating I have tried to drive business model innovation in a combination with participatory actions, and I have demonstrated how conversational analyses among employees and complex responsive process theory can complement action research to contribute to the claims on social process of innovation. My research has been increasingly influenced by the work of Griffin, Shaw and Stacey, who understand human interactions as complex responsive process of relating (Stacey, Griffin and Shaw 2000, Stacey 2001, Griffin 2002, Shaw 2002). As a researcher and at the same time stakeholder within the research, I managed to recognize the emergence of repetitive patterns when I was acting in each of my roles. Central to the theory of complex responsive processes (Stacey 2001; Stacey et al., 2000) is the notion that all human communicative interaction is inevitably patterned as power relations. Drawing on the work of the sociologist Norbert Elias (1939, 1970, 1970, 1989; Elias and Scotson, 1994), these figurations of power relations reflect ideological themes organizing the experience of being together and they are always reflected in the dynamics of inclusion and exclusion. Organizations are iterative processes of communicative interaction that is repetitive patterns of human experience of being together in the living present, in which themes are continually reproduced, always with the potential for transformation. This potential lies in the possibility that small differences, variations in the reproduction of habits, will be amplified into new action with new meaning. Fonseca is arguing that ’’organizations’’ are patterns of interaction between participants in complex responsive process that tend to become routines and habits, which are continually reproduced. Griffin (1998) points out that the cultural identity of an organization, the coherent ’’whole’’ of knowledge with its pragmatic and ethical aspects, is formed by the participants in their interaction while at the same time it forms them. Griffin also refers to this as the paradox of culture: forming while at the same time being formed through participation. In the perspective of complex responsive process of relating, innovation is the negotiation of meaning between people with different intentions, as process of relating in which people conflict and collaborate at the same time (Buur & Larsen, 2010). An interesting aspect of the theory of complex processes of relating is that it strongly rejects the understanding that humans ’participate’ in systems. According to Stacey thinking of any kind of organisation leads to the thought that someone can stay outside, but no one can distance themselves from their interactions with the others (Stacey & Griffin, 2005).
Social Interactions In their interactions people continuously respond to each other, over time establishing themes and at the same time endlessly refining, changing, deconstructing and embellishing topics, ideas and concepts. New themes in conversation may become innovation in the marketing, but the ideas need to be involved with other influential interactions as well, for instance between R&D and marketing, and between R&D and management. These meetings will challenge and redefine the ideas (SPIRE, 2013). Based on their research Buur & Larsen (2011) describe innovation as a result of negotiation of crossing intentions, and conclude that new themes emerge if crossing intentions resonate with participants’ own experience and if there is a spontaneity that allows participants to imagine new roles. The ability to reflect about patterns of conversation, and to face perceived risks involved in trying to break patterns, is an important part of what the authors call ’’quality of conversations’’ (Buur & Larsen 2010). Communication is a movement from and towards as yet unrecognised position that comes to be recognised (known) in the act of communication itself. That recognition may sustain or shift the communicants’ identities. The experience of meaning is occurring in the present (Stacey, 2001).
Buur & Larsen (2010) speak about quality of conversations that seems to allow new meaning to emerge and thus stimulates innovation. Conflicts intentions are encouraged since in the conflict, new solutions are reached, and new patterns are created in the place of the old ones. The ’real dialogue’ is necessary for development to happen, and that such a dialogue can happen through a process of co-sensing where people listen to each other´s perspectives. Larsen & Buur (2010) emphasise the quality of conversation as key in innovation, and they conclude that conversations may lead to innovation when: (1) crossing intentions are allowed to surface; and new themes emerge in the interactions (2) new, vigorous concepts emerge that resonate with participants’ own experiences; (3) there is a spontaneity that allows participants to imagine new roles in which there is an on-going discussion and readjustment of goals; and (4) facilitation is exercised within the circle of participation, rather than from ’outside’. They understand innovation as arising from ’crossing intentions’. Stacey (2001), drawing on George Mead, describes how human communication can be seen as the key to understand the emergence and sustaining of patterns of interaction while also forming the identities of the those involved. Mean (1934) describes human interaction as process of gesturing and responding, in which we create meaning. On a contrast, Shannon and Weaver (1949) present their model of the communication only as a tool for transferring what is already been thought - as human interaction is like a telephone line. In conversations, we follow the same iterative movement in which one discovers the meaning of what one is saying in the response of others to it. We find ourselves recognizing the meaning of what we are saying as we speak into the response of others and as we do this, the meaning of what we are saying may well be transforming (Stacey, 2001). In that sense, innovation is not a function or a rational choice but a potential in all communicative interaction. Fonseca argues that a helpful way to think about the process through which knowledge changes in an organization is to take the dissipative structure perspective. He also suggests that conversation is the pattern that constructs social realities and that, therefore, there is a need to be said something about the dynamics of conversations. Conversational dynamics are stable when they take place in words already spoken, that is, patterns of talk with meaning patterns already established and stabilized. Such patterns of talk are characterized by low levels of redundant diversity in the sense that the conversation is instrument, leading rapidly to action having an economic value to the agents concerned. There is very little potential for misunderstanding. Such patterns of talk may evolve incrementally, but do not leads to significant change, that is, innovation. Fonseca then argues that when the level of redundant diversity increases, that is, when people engage in conversations not driven by the demands of immediate action having economic value and when they interact with each other from different patterns of talk, the potential for misunderstanding amplifies. When this reaches a critical level, the intensive search for understanding leads to the emergence of new meaning. This is a radically different way of understanding the process of innovation since it puts misunderstanding at the heart of the possibility of innovation. Elias (1991, 1998, Elias and Scotson 1994) states that power is an aspect of every human interaction, not as a control on one over another, but as interdependence between the two. Elias and Scotson (1994) describe how humans tend to organize in groups (we) and opposing to the others (them) in process of inclusion - exclusion in which gossip play an important role. He finds gossip to play a useful purpose in maintaining the cohesion of social groups. Over the years, each employee in Vitfoss has participated in conversations with other colleagues in which gossip about the others has helped them established their role and positions in the company beyond the official titles. While gossiping employees get to know each other, try to find the right ways of working together. It is in the process of communicative interaction and power relating that organizational and individual identities emerge as continuity and potential transformation. It is this potential for transformation that is the origin of innovation. The process of innovation is the continual nonlinear iterative reproduction of themes patterning the experience of being and doing together.
EMERGING WORK Rather unusual, this chapter introduces both the methodology used in the study, along with the presentation of the data and the articulation of the results. However, I find reasons for doing so. The conducted study with the methods chosen and the relevant findings is very much linked also to the changes that happened in the company at that time. It is impossible to substantiate data collection from my method selection process or from the section analyses, since one did not follow after the other. It only makes sense for me to lay down all the facts together, since I consider the conducted activities and insights along with the selection of methods not just following one another, but also influencing, shaping and defining each other. The chapter starts by introducing the research methodology used for this study and how it has guided data collection, analysis and development of theory. A variety of methods to assess the reaction and the understanding of the employees to change and innovation, were used. A qualitative research, the study also includes participatory methods (Buur & Matthews, 2008), such as user-driven innovation, participatory design, research-through-design, used as a way to affect the development of decision making process in a participatory innovation context. The core assumption of participatory innovation concept is that a broad spectrum of people including users - can contribute to innovation (Buur & Ankenbrand & Mitchell, 2013). Co-designing as the development of a mobile service solution in the collaboration of the studied parties, the discussions of relevant preconditions and consequences, is also a very big part of the participatory innovation vision. Other than the conducted actives by myself in the research, I was also taking an active participation in on-going developments within the company, which happened during that time. Through all the activities, permission to record, videotape and use the footage for the purposes of the research was granted by all the participants.
Pilot Study First Set of Interviews Semi-structured and unstructured interviews (Schensul et al, 1999) with five employees from Marketing and Customer Service Departments to learn about their perceptions regarding mobile usage and web solutions for the working practices were conducted. By starting the research with an interview approach, I was aiming to familiarize myself with the issues of the collaboration in the company and to build knowledge in understanding the most important themes to focus on. Driven by my own experience within the company, the participants were invited unofficially at first to participate in the study, followed by formal emails with explanation about the scope of the project and the agenda of the interviews. The interview questions were of exploratory nature due to the early stage in the overall research project. The direction of the questions were designed to identify patterns and common themes in the participantsâ€™ everyday work practices and sought to gather some insight on common concerns and understandings about the working processes and the organisational structure. Video has been used as well as field notes to reflect on what happened through the sessions. The interviews that took place had also the priority to focus on participantsâ€™ awareness and knowledge of organisational data, as well as their descriptions and understandings about company dynamics. I was trusted by the participants with personal stories and private thoughts. In the role of both the researcher and a stakeholder, I have also found myself more willing to share private reflections and concerns about certain situations and events during my work experience within the company. For example, a story about a colleague, whoâ€™s working manners were not accepted at first by some of the employees, who were gossiping about it, that in the end the management had to take actions in resolving the matter. This particular story turned out to be of a great interest to a lot of the participants in the interview sessions, since it was discussed by most of them.
The conducted interviews provided valuable leads to be pursued later on in the research project in more in-depth practices for involving the stakeholders with participatory practices within the process of innovation. During the interviews, I aimed not to restrain the participants but to give them time to talk about how they understood and described their working practices. Acknowledging their understandings and grasping over common themes within the company, such as the importance of the different conversational manners, how employees deal in time of uncertainty and change, also, how they pursue topics such as gossip, power relations, conflicts, how they handle critique at the workplace, were investigated. Through my experience of working with these themes, in the short time available for the research, I become aware of a link between the topics, the investigation and reflection on which can allow for participatory practices to be successfully applied in the organisation. The responses during the first interviews have helped to develop the questions for the next interviews iteration. The questions got more specific over time, influenced by the previous participants and the themes developed by them. To explore better the nature of employees’ interactions, I also conducted series of conversational inquires (Shaw, 2005) during less official settings. The idea of conversational inquiries is that one conversation leads to the next. Active inquiries differ from investigation or consultation by not just seeking to gather information, but also to familiarize myself with the issues of the interactions between the employees; building knowledge in understanding the most important themes to focus on.
“The point is to create ripples of local sense-making that drive new activity. Guard against trying only to capture and harvest what comes of each inquiry “round.” The key questions are: What is the next conversation that needs to happen? With whom? Where? Who will take on inviting, convening, and hosting the next “round?” How do we overlap and keep interconnection between evolving conversational groupings? What ideas and material may stimulate and progress the inquiry?’’ (Shaw, 2005: 21).
During the conversational inquiries more personal stories were shared by the employees and suggestions about who to talk to next, were given to, as one of the female employees suggested for me to ask the next person to be interviewed about whether or not he/she knows his/her responsibilities.
EMERGING WORK Second Set of Interviews The data from the first set of interviews with the relevant common emerging themes and reflections was presented in front of the Manager of Customer Service, Secretaries and the Manager of Marketing Department. The presentation was also associated with in-depth conversational queries. Both of the managers embraced the talks very passionately, associated with suggestions and recommendation both to the study case and to me as a researcher. They both expressed support and a desire for me to keep following the set lines of the project. They also insisted on showing the outcomes to some of the company meetings. The managers considered the findings on employees’ perspectives and working issues a valuable realization, from which it could be gain some positive sequels in the future. One of them evaluated my interviews with the employees as ’’coaching sessions, in which people have made reflections about problems and have articulated thoughts that employees haven’t even known that they were thinking’’, as it is employees’ articulations of the pattern to stay more quiet during official meetings. That same manager shared that he would always wish for a way ’’to hear more about general opinions among the employees and bring the issues to some of the managers’ meetings, so we can use the input and bring change if necessary’’. I think that my role as a consultant (Shaw, 2002, 2005) was first recognised by me during this interview session. At that moment, I came to think also that an important part of my work within the research for App creation and stakeholders’ involvement was daring to run risks, the risks of introducing to the others the steps into the unknown. From this position it is reasonable to state that, in the role of a consultant, the idea of bringing people at another level is to make them reflect.
Adword Usage Research After collecting the first insights and ideas on the future company mobile solution, an Adwords usage research (Beel & Gipp & Wilde, 2010) was carried out to gather information on what technology (mobile devices) the users, visiting the official company websites are using. It was discovered that almost 90 % of the people use Apple products to access the official websites of the company. Because of the big usage, it was only natural for me to conclude that the future App should be created for Apple Store platform, which means certain constraints and requirements from Apple Inc. Apple corporation has very strict rules about sharing certain information with their partners, for example an information about who is downloading the App. Apple Inc. are just providing the knowledge of how many people have downloaded the App, which was not satisfying for Vitfoss. So, in the end, it was decided that the company first App should be for all mobile devices, not just for Apple users, since it was considered a priority to reach as many people as possible. The decision was taken by the Marketing Manager, after I presented the gathered research data on the subject. He was also convinced that my efforts should only be to gather the needed information for taking the decision about what kind of App the company needs and would benefit from. I was then informed that an external company would actually handle the creation. In the end of my research, I was expected to deliver all the needed information to the external company. A discussion about who is going to maintain the App, once created, had appeared at that point in the project. The manager agreed that the potential App shouldnâ€™t be that demanding and time consuming for the company to maintain. It was again a one-man-decision by the Marketing Manager. My immediate response was to agree that it is better to leave a professional company to handle the creation, but at the same time I got concerned about how the collaboration would work. Would that other company manage to understand our requirements and needs? But my biggest issue was that I felt like I was somehow taken away the control of the final outcome. This can easily be explained in the line of power configurations and identity shifting, but I will come back to this later in my discussion chapter, where I raise these reflections.
EMERGING WORK Recognising an Opportunity – Company’s First Workshop At that point of my research, I was realizing that my next steps should be to create a setting where employees get together and start a discussion about how company deals with users and what could be done to improve procedures to become more user-orientated. After my initial steps within the research, an opportunity presented itself and gave me the possibility to continue my efforts in involving key stakeholders in the process of user-driven innovation. At that time, the Marketing Manager suggested that the marketing team should hold a session, during which to discuss the company strategy shift and what it means for the department. Also - to discover new ways to market and advertise with less costs. A better understanding of our consumers’ needs and the most efficient channels to reach them was also considered agenda for the get-together. I instantly recognised the opportunity to transform that meeting into a more engaging and active setup, using some tangible tools to facilitate business discussions in line with Buur et al. (2013) concept of ‘‘Participatory Business Modelling’’. In their paper, the authors discuss one of the methods of going beyond spread sheets and post-it notes and that is the use of tangible objects to redefine business elements. Relaying on design theory, my desire was to study the moves the participants would make during the meeting and to reflect on their configuration of roles and reaction to change. What happened next was that I asked the Marketing Manager for permission to facilitate such activities during the meeting, presenting the case of my wishes to turn the meeting into a workshop. After receiving a positive answer, I prepared the employees from the marketing team for what was about to happen on that particular session by providing them with transcription and detailed information of how the tangible tools, we were going to have, are being used. Obviously, I did not know what would happen. We had a theme and agenda for the session, but the ways that we usually work would have been different. Using tangibility, an invitation for more deep and creative discussions was created and eventually, that first meeting turned out to be the very first workshop for brainstorming and negotiating ideas in the marketing department. In the end of February, the workshop took place. We were seven people that took part, all employees in the Marketing Department. We started up by analysing the market and dividing it in segments and sub-sections that were meaningful for our marketing strategies and the activities of the company. After that we continued with trying to negotiate a mutual understanding about the most important aspects when dealing with the users - their wishes, demands, and fears. We ended up creating persona cards (Long, 2009) of imaginary users, trying to implement our knowledge and expectations about their working practices, personal characteristics and interests. As part of my preparation for the workshop, we partly used the internationally wellknown Business Model Canvas (Osterwalder & Pigneur, 2010), which is a strategic management template for developing new or documenting existing business models, key activities, resources, partner network and values propositions. In Osterwalder’s process of business model innovation, the fields ‘key partnerships’ and ‘customer relationship’ on the canvas motivate participants to discuss about whom they collaborate with. Osterwalder and Pigneur point the importance of a diverse team of participants across the organisation to be assembled to discuss business model issues. This resonate very well with the participatory design traditions I was trying to implement during the whole research and consequently with my way of thinking and shaping the session on that day. New channels were established by the marketing team for a better perspective about customers’ needs and values and how to best meet users’ expectations. As a total, the marketing team was trying to find out if there are any gaps in the services that we provide to the clients and in particular to figure it out what kind of technology, tools, and activities can also guarantee our relationship with the customers. During the workshop, the question about new layouts, banners, other print materials and webs that should be improved in connection to the new strategy shift within the company, was raised. We established some new graphic solutions and ideas about a new logo, which were thought to be negotiated with DLG’s graphic department in the following months. It was decided that our efforts in connection to the persona card should be shown to 22 the animal section experts, so we can have a more accurate feedback on our assumptions.
The discussions in the workshop started a bit difficult at first and I could sense that people were feeling uncertain, tense and anxious, because they were doing something so different from what they were used to during meetings. They were feeling insecure to have suggestions in such a free context where they could do and say more than in the normal official meetings about company strategies and new working practices. It was very stressful for me in the beginning, since I could sense that people did not fully understand the activities, which I tried to facilitate. At first, each time, they would say or write something, they would look at me, as if expecting to get an answer from me whether it is right or wrong. After some time, I would like to think that they got less and less uncomfortable and that they actually started to feel at easy. People started to have fun during the activities, which resulted in engaging discussions and motivation to continue with the endeavours. In the end, we agreed that it would be interesting to follow up on the outcomes and keep developing the establishments from the event. The workshop can be seen as the activity that pushed the use of tangible objects in the business models and strategy creation within the marketing department. The tension in the beginning was not only recognised by me. After the event, the Marketing Manager agreed that for a fact the meeting was turned into a workshop, but he also acknowledged that: ’’We were not there yet. We were not completely ready’’. In that sense, perhaps we could not have fully taken an advantage of the free setting for brainstorming and discussions that I tried to create. I find reasons to think that this particular case of stakeholders’ involvement was somehow influenced by my work within the company in connection to my research, because of the constant talk within the departments about stakeholders’ involvement and innovation. I would assume that my efforts raised a discussion or at least this constant awareness about the themes. By raising topics such as stakeholders’ involvement and participatory innovation, I have created a continuous invitation for the employees to reflect on engaging procedures. I would not state that I ’’implemented’’ ideas or values, but rather I seek a willingness to make use of the research for the App creation to explore what is going on and encourage conversation. Going back to the workshop, I come to understand that it did not turn as the engaging participatory activity, as I thought it would be. In spite of all my efforts for the participants to get engaged in the process, I have to agree that the engagement was easily forgotten after the session. Although, the discussions were passionate and the results satisfying during the workshop, no further interest was shown from the participants to continue the engaging activities. This could be due to a lot of practical reasons within the company, such as time issues or project prioritizing, but the case also got to think about ways, things could be done differently and more successfully during and after participatory activities within the organisation.
EMERGING WORK Persona Cards - The Tangible Outcome After the workshop, I took the initiative to continue on developing further the persona cards (Long, 2009) of the imaginary customers. Users are widely acknowledged as a valuable source of creativity and knowledge in the development of new products and services (Wheelwright and Clark, 1992). Understanding the role that users can play in innovation has been the focus on different strands of research in economics, organisation and management science, the social science, design and engineering and systems development (Buur & Matthews, 2008). Combining all the discussions on imaginary users’ archetypes during the workshop, I gathered all the information and created simple card designs with the insights on the users. Then, I invited the employees from the Marketing Department, the same ones who participated in the workshop, plus the one missing on that day from our team, to give opinions and suggestions for improvements. I realize now that I did not leave much choice for them, since I printed the materials and put them on their desks, with the explanation that I needed a feedback. This could be the reason that in short time, I received recommendations on language and the phrasing in the text, on the layouts of the cards and even suggestions on what we had missed to cover during the workshop. Then, the persona cards were sent to the two animal section experts by emails, asking for their opinion about our new marketing endeavour. One of them answered stating that the objectives are fresh and it is certainly something of an interest to him. He did not make any corrections on what we were presenting, but he raised the question of whether or not we have thought enough on how we can best reach the users in their private time, in which they are ’’unprotected without defence against the world and the marketing’’. Reading this part again, I come to realize that unfortunately, the case of the persona cards development was seen from the employees as a one-man project. The colleagues saw me, as the person in charge of the project case and responded to it not participating as feeling responsible and engaged but more as if providing a needed information, just supporting someone else’s work task. The others relied on me as the person to take the initiative for continuing the work on the persona cards. The more they become aware of my role as the one ’’in charge’’, the less they allowed themselves to influence the project. So in the situation of working together their work becomes safer, since they pursued me as the one responsible for the outcomes. Consequently, they did not take a real risk by giving their feedback to me. From this I can argue that change cannot take place without a hint of risk, since the shift in the employees working practices to implement participatory innovation was not as successful as I thought it to be. Allowing youself to take a risk can bring change. And in that sense, I understand change as innovation.
Buur & Matthews (2008) discuss that the deployment of participatory design itself, often an exercise in organisational change, bring diverse stakeholders together who confront each other with very different perspectives on the issue. The authors also point out that the unique strength of participatory design is its ability to introduce novel user-driven practices to organisations that have traditional ways of working, as it is the case in Vitfoss. Being a company, that has been on the market for more than 70 years, the employees are having troubles letting go of practices that have been working very well, for a very long time. That is why it is hard to find reasons for them to change. The present case of stakeholders’ involvement in the persona cards project was not recognised by the participants as an opportunity to move the working manners on a new level, orientated to user-driven innovation. I can assume that this confusion, uncertainty to engage more than what the employees are used to, is not only going on in this project case. I can recognise a pattern of such endeavours in the organisation, which fail for one reason or another. And I imagine that the issue of unsuccessful activities of engaging stakeholders is not only present in Vitfoss, but in many other organisations.
Measuring the Process – Follow-up Meeting A short time later, the marketing employees together with thier managers, we had another meeting that followed up on the efforts from the workshop. The agenda of the meeting was ’’what to do in the future’’ in connection to how to change our focus from print to electronically marketing, following the new strategy shift - to save money from our budget. The managers underlined once again the need to downsize the number of leaflets and other printing materials. That would give us time to increase efforts on layouts for the web. The meeting was with informal setup. We were in our usual office space, but people were sitting on the desks and the floor, having more of an informal conversation with each other, rather than a formal meeting. Thinking again to the informal setting at that day, I came to think of it as an invitation to break routine practices, as a search for new ways for brainstorming. The unofficial meeting helped everyone to be more comfortable and to give suggestions. Employees felt invited to speak out and I can conclude that from the interesting and fruitful discussion that followed. That particular meeting backs up one of my findings during the interviews where people shared that they tend to stay more quiet in official meetings and that they prefer to share ideas with their managers in situations with more in official settings. Holding a meeting with coffee, casually sitting on the floors and desks, was seen as informal session from the employees. In that sense the ideas that are being shared are seen as if off the record, where the pressure of evaluating their suggestions is not that heavy. I would like to explain that occurrence with the concept of complex responsive processes of relating. The interactions among humans are processes of relating in which we continuously respond to each other (Stacey, 2001, 2007b). If the managers proceed to the employees in an unofficial manner, they have the power to influence the employees’ reactions. Invited and at the same time expected to respond on the same manner, the employees accept the informality of the situation. The complexity here comes from the unforeseen spontaneous ways of acting in the unconstrained environment from the both parties, who are stepping out of the routine.
EMERGING WORK International Dealers Inquiry After the insights from the conducted activities up until that point in the research for the future App, I needed to evaluate more accurate the outcomes. An inquiry among the international partners was sent by email asking them to participate in the initiative of App creation. The dealers were invited to give ideas and solutions on new ways to reach the end users, to improve the communication or just to give hint on the aspect of whether or not the company is lacking some kind of service or solution in connection to the relationship with the clients. Before sending the inquiry, I involved in the process the Marketing and Sales Manager of Stalosan (the bestselling company product abroad), as well as the Marketing Manager. They did not negotiate or cohere with one another but they reconciled with me. From dozens international dealers, only one answered, showing interest in the project. I acknowledge that due to the chosen method of including all the dealers, without further consideration of time and interest factors, the number of non-respondents and their reasons for not taking part in the study could not be known. Perhaps one of the reasons could be that I wrote the letter from my behalf and not from the name of one of the managers, which in fact has proven in time to be the working strategy to get the international partners to respond to marketing efforts. This can easily be explained in the line of power relations and the way that dealers do not feel obligated to reply to a person who is not their superior and to engage in activities, which are not part of their working responsibilities.
Dealers Contest â€“ A Platform for Comparison
In this part, I describe a similar situation where the colleagues, also involved in the particular case, are focused on the pattern of the interactions with the international dealers, not recognising the potential for change that I could see in the same situation we were working with. In 2013, from October to December, I was engaged in the activity of creating a contest for the international dealers. I was given a lot of freedom when selecting matters for a questionnaire. The main purpose of contest was to encourage dealers to start using the forum section on the official website for the product Stalosan, which section was created especially for them, so they can share information, experiences and stay in touch with each other at all times. Another purpose of the contest was to try to introduce the new basic platforms for advertising that the company was using at that time - Facebook, LinkedIn, Slide Share, and YouTube. By creating 6 short and relatively easy questions concerning the product Stalosan F, which answers could be reached by making accounts and visiting the web channels, another purpose of the contest was to make dealers aware of how the websites were working and what exactly the company is doing to promote the product. At the same time, the expectations of the Marketing Department were that some of the dealers would start using the channels themselves for marketing purposes. Before the contest, the managers discussed that after all, the international dealers could not sell products properly, if they donâ€™t know what web tools the clients are actually using nowadays, such as Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, etc. By the time, the contest was over, we only had two people answered the questionnaire out of 70 - 80 international dealers in total. Of course, the results were pretty disappointing, but after sending the gifts to the two winners and newsletters to all of the dealers to inform them who had won and to show gratitude to those, who participated, the issue was not proceeded any further. No reflection was made by the managers or the employees engaged in the project about the reasons why there had been such a poor participation level in a project considered of such a great importance for the encouragement of the dealers to be more engaged with each other and more informed of the latest trends in the field of advertising. The lack of reflection in the end of the discussed project, I come to see as a missed chance in the opportunity to discover the reasons why efforts for dealersâ€™ participation tend to fail.
In the company, we have another case that allows us to compare these low levels of participation with the participation rate from another project that was carried out again with the international dealers. By request of our International Stalosan Manager, I was supposed to find out whether or not a new package size (15 kg bag) of the product Stalosan would be successful on the international market. I sent around a letter that stated it was a company research. In that case, the participation level was pretty high around 90 % of the dealers answered within three weeks. Perhaps the difference in the results came from the fact that the research was said to be mandatory, by the request of the International Stalosan Manager, while the dealers contest, was thought to be for fun, not compulsory. Consequently, this supports my way of thinking about the efforts for dealers’ involvement as a case that deals with power relations and identities. I do see a consistent argument that explains when the efforts to involve the international partners fail with the perceived image of authority and the ability that superiors have over the employees.
Mock-up Apps After gathering some initial ideas from key stakeholders within the departments, throughout the methods listed above, it was a time to test and evaluate the concepts for the future App. Mock-up Apps were created in order to try out each suggestion and evaluate the pros and cons of each idea. Making mock-ups turned out to be a fast way to illustrate ideas as tangible artefacts. The ideas were generated as visible outcomes, so it was easier for the bad ones to be thrown out. After showing around the trial Apps, I improved the designs by getting immediate and meaningful feedback from the stakeholders and the users (one farmer and one customer). The sketch-style wireframes helped focusing the conversation on content and interaction. The tool helped to engage and educate the team at Vitfoss by following the visibility of their suggestions. It allowed to explore different ideas and at the same time to review them before selecting the right concepts and designs. The use of tangibility was once again introduced to the employees. From the listed suggestions on the right it could be seen that the ideas of the employees varied from practical everyday working issues (optimizing printing manners) to ideas on improvements about project cases with a new level of focusing on strategies for pay off in the long term perspectives (an online shop).
Summary of the Basic App Ideas:
• The whole product manual as an App • SAP (the company’s system) as an App • An app about products with season focus • Documentation of the products with basic characteristics and usage guidance
• An App in collaboration with the other
partner companies, under Vilofoss name
• Contact information about our
international partners and company
• Tips for the farmers and other clients • In the direction of optimizing the printing manners in Customer Service Desk
• An App for an online shop • Common problems and solutions in everyday farming experience
• A focus on the bestselling products Stalosan Hygiene Solutions
EMERGING WORK Mock-up Apps Unfortunately, within the time of the research, no decisions were taken upon on which App is best suited for the new conditions in the company after the strategy shifting from printing to web marketing. It could be due to the fact that in the last stage of the study, in April, a lot of the people were on holidays and key involvers within the process were missing. But it could also be because the opportunities that the App can provide in the line of the new strategy shift in the company, is however not easily recognised among the employees. It was announced that although it is appreciated the employees’ involvement and suggestions, the final decision will be made by the Manager of Customer Service, Secretaries and the Marketing Department after evaluating the mock-up Apps. I can’t help but wonder how that would turn out, since some of the ideas, implemented as tangible mock-up Apps, were his. Of course, it could mean that his suggestions were the most suited for the company, but on the other hand, the decision would be for sure influenced by his personal opinion. During a talk with him on the matter, he suggested that perhaps the tangible App ideas should be presented also to the involved parties, so they can see the outcomes of the carried research. He insisted in me presenting in front of the Customer Service and Marketing Departments during our unofficial breakfast sessions, which happen every Wednesday. I would, of course, gladly do this, but with the reservation for the outcome, since my sincere personal opinion and an understanding of the situation is that, the future presentation will not influence the decision making process. With the risk of sounding unpleasant, I would assume that from the enthusiasm and the great interest that the manager showed to his own suggestions, when seeing the tangible Apps, the decision is more or less taken already. I cannot help but add another kind of reflection to this theme of the future decision making process. By taking the decision himself, the manager is in a sense undermining the conducted participatory activities with the stakeholders, but in the end – the same stakeholders and other parties in the company expect from him to take the decision. He is expected to do some action, since no one can over step his responsibilities for the final outcome. Here I see a problematic area of the manager allowing himself to risk by permitting/ensuring participation in the final stage of the decision process, but also undertaking the realization that he would take the ’blame’ for the work of others. This is a case of enabling and constraining at the same time. Reading this whole part again, I now find reasons in not pushing enough employees to engage with the mock-up Apps in this final stage of the research, since at that point, I have already made my conclusions on the manager’s manner of how the final decision for the best suited App is going to be made. This aspect is not without risk raising it, because it might undermine strong assumptions about the processes of change and idea generating phases, as established by the management and implemented among the employees. But by stating my understandings on the matter, I make a small provocation to the manager who is about to make the decision and who will hopefully read this thesis, which provocation links very well to some of the themes that I am about to discuss in the following section, especially the issue of how invited the employees in Vitfoss feel to speak out and the common pattern of avoiding disagreements on ideas and practices with colleagues.
Horse Tips Horse Information Topics Basic Horse Handling Grooming, Brushing and Cleaning Bathing Your Horse Winter Horse Care and Blankets Cleaning Horse Stalls Manage the Horse Pasture Landscape Tips for Cooling Your Horse Your Horseâ€™s First Aid Kit Wounds and Minor Injury Care (Stopping Files and Insects Bites) Equine Insurance - Do You Need It? Horse nutrition / feed - Equsana Horse Councils Horse Jokes Horse Myths and Wives Tales
ng the Horse Landscape
Print document Open in... Email document Share on Copy Dropbox
Goat Stalosan Hygiene Solutions
Pig Cattle Poultry Horse
1x10x24 5x2x71 20x36
DISCUSSIONS In this chapter I begin to outline my understanding of identity and roles, and how these are formed, along with my view upon how this relates to the topics of change and strategy shifting within a company. I seek for a clarification and an understanding that can accurately convey my thoughts on personal involvement and the consequences for the conducted research. I also address the issues that appear in the interaction between individuals in regards to defining their own roles and their dependency on others. I find the notions of identity and interdependency central aspects in my conclusions from the conducted research. I consider all the themes that were uncovered heavy influencing the processes of innovation and change in the company. These reflections can help for a better comprehension and future development of the working practices. During the interactions with the employees, it was uncovered that people from different departments have different perspectives about their end users. At first, this could sound logical for one to conclude, but what actually happened was that the participants made the realisation for themselves first during the created participatory interactions. Understanding the role of the user can be a valuable source of creativity and knowledge (Wheelwright & Clark, 1992), especially understanding the role that the knowledge about users can play in the innovation processes. Some of the employees in Marketing Department consider the farmer as an end user, other employees from Customer Service Department consider the logistic partners as their users. The rest of the participants in the research sessions consider a lot of parties as end users. For example one employee from the Marketing Department shared that for her, the department is responsible for providing services to dealers, farmers, international partners, but also to our colleagues. In that sense, she said that she thinks of the department as ‘a company within the company’. During the first set of interviews with the employees, another common understanding among them was revealed – employees don’t feel invited to speak out during official meetings. They shared that they feel insecure to state openly their opinions and to raise questions during company meetings, since they connect it with the topics of self-esteem, skills and expertise. These are the reasons they stay quiet during meetings. In the interview sessions with the managers where I was partly presenting my findings, I was astonished to discover that neither one of them was surprised by the revelation of the employees’ tendency on the matter.
One of the managers who were interviewed made an excuse for the employees by sharing a story of him, not being comfortable and confident enough during his first management meeting that took place years ago. He explains the phenomenon by the fact that if a person still has to prove and show his/her skills, he/she could not get too certain of his/hers qualities. I appreciate these reflections on his own experience, as they resonate so well with the employees’ articulations on the matter. However, he did not seem to acknowledge the paradox this reflection can lead to. It is difficult for me to understand and relate to his calm position when considering the fact that an employee does not feel qualified to speak out, since if the employee does not feel skilled and confident, and the managers are aware of that fact, for me more complicated and difficult questions about the workers’ qualifications appear. I can’t help but wonder if the employees don’t feel qualified enough to be entitled to have an opinion and voice during company meetings, do they act as the experts that they are hired to be. The employees’ concerns can be also explained with the theme of feeling insecure of whether the management is thinking of them as qualified.
I find that the common fear of sharing ideas among the workers in Vitfoss is one of the factors that shaped and influenced the research for the App creation. The employees, being invited by me to engage in different participatory activities and to contribute to the project with ideas and feedback, I sensed that they did not feel comfortable being put in that position to be asked of their opinions and to be invited in many different ways, to take the initiative themselves. Their reservation to these new techniques reflected on the final outcomes of the project, not in the sense that fruitful feedback was not acquired, but in the line of not taking the advantage to fully develop the presented participatory opportunity.
DISCUSSIONS Making Sense in Change I find the topic of change as one of the essential themes within the time of the research. The ways employees perceive as new meanings, uncertainties and possibilities that can be reached through the shifting times, also influenced the way I was thinking of the project. The shifting times that happened in the company during the time of the research are essential for the methods chosen by me while/after making sense on the new situation. The change that was about to happen in the company after the announcement of shifting marketing efforts from printing to web efforts, gave a new legitimation to the meaning of the future company App, at least I saw the shift as making the App project more significant in the lines of the new strategies. Fonseca (2002) notices that we live in a world of accelerating change and the word “globalization” seems to capture both the menace and the promise of this change. The author also points out that while there is always change, periods of change differ from one another. Unlike previous economic revolutions, in which the input was energy and matter (coal, steam, oil, electricity, steel, plastic), the present revolution in economic productivity is based on information and knowledge (Freeman, 1988). This is a monumental shift for Fonseca since we have moved from an economy based on the transformation of energy and matter to an economy of knowledge creation. With this in mind, I am also looking at the theme of change in the same set lines - for the importance of reaching change and innovation through new acquired knowledge and practices. Strategy shifting in a company is often associated with difficulties or at the very least with the disturbance of old practices. As in Vitfoss, it was also accompanied with redundancy and budget cuts. During the unofficial inquiries, some colleagues shared that the uncertainty at first is very strong in situations like these and that they experience the unemployment as harsh steps. According to them whether or not you have been close to the person, determines how hard it is to say goodbye to a colleague. One employee gives the example of: ’’Of course, some colleagues you like more than the others. It is the human factor of having more in common’’. The difficult part for the management is to reason the employees of why they need to change successfully considered, until that point, work practices. A variety of authors suggest that there are a number of advantages of resistance to change. If managed carefully, the resistance to change can be utilized by the organisation, as long as the management make use of the advantages. Niccolo Machiavelli, in The Prince, he shows the risk and the difficulties in implementing change, especially the issue of the resistance to change and, at best, the lack of commitment to it. This, said from the philosopher in the early sixteenth century, is still very much accurate problematic area. Bringing change in organisations is always accompanied with a certain dose of uncertainty, stress and fear among the employees. Employees shared through the participatory sessions that they tend to defend old practices and look with doubt and unwillingness to new endeavours, especially if they cannot see the point, the meaning. The new, the change is scary concepts for a person. The uncertainty of the situations makes people insecure. Usually the notion of ’plan’ is very often structured in employees’ understandings about organisations. Grill (2003) states that the reasons change programme often fails are because of poor planning, monitoring and control, lack of resources and know-how. I do agree with Grill’s view upon this. However, the times of change can bring different crossing themes and what happens could never be the exact result of any particular plan. Some may also feel anxious about the direction the conversation might take.
Understanding the change that eventually happened within the company requires a close evaluation of the old practices and a process of finding a meaning in the new practices. In that sense, I argue that change in organisation can be well managed only if it is successfully introduced, observed, sustained and if the initial chaos is managed to be transferred into a new understanding of the possibilities. This is also in line with what I experienced in the company when the change that was about to happen was first introduced to the employees. From the successful implementation of the new endeavours with no stress levels, I can agree that the way managers handled the shift was seen as smooth and successful. Change in organisations can be seen as negative and stressful experience, but I see it as a new opportunity to start doing the things in a better, more efficient way, that times of change instigate some traits of innovation. For me, it is also an opportunity to challenge yourself, to reflect on your working practices, because it is a chance to shift your understandings, values, to find new meaning for yourself. I argue that the uncertainty, the disorder is essential for the creation of new patterns. The potential of the improvisational process is very much linked to the way employees understand and work with the theme of change. The times of change instigate some preconditions for innovation. It gives an opportunity for employees to re-evaluate the old practices and to step into the unknown that requires spontaneity by talking and doing into the new, out of the comfort zone. All these, I find as premises for change to happen during the uncertainty of the company shifts. All these resonates with my own experience of how much efforts are being put in discussions of the best ways for the management to introduce change that needed to happen. I see a lot of movements in the way managers understand the theme of change and the ways it can be handled.
Working in the new atmosphere, in the final phase of my research, I come to think of the process of App creation during the shift from printing advertising materials to non-printing, as if the potential of the possibilities was not fully recognised by the people in the company.
DISCUSSIONS The Misleads in Idea Generation and Sharing Processes Gathering the perspectives of different employees on how they see and experience the idea generating process within the company, showed major differences in their understandings. As any organisation, Vitfoss also has its structure with levels and manager. A surprising fact was that during the interactions with the employees, it was revealed that they consider the company as a flat structure, since they all agreed that the management is easy to reach and open for new ideas and personal talks. One states that: ’’in Vitfoss, it is very easy to have an idea and talk about it’’. The paradox between the belief of the ability to do so and the fact that they do not feel invited to approach the management appeared. Acknowledging the fact that the management is allowing, a lot of people still don’t feel invited to speak out when they have an idea or at least they feel insecure to share it, especially during official meetings. The common uncertainty among the employees was explained by them to be because of the fear of being judged. This is the reason why they tend to stay quiet during official meetings and that they would rather share the idea with the managers in a more unofficial way. I come to think of the fear of being judged as strongly linked to the theme of the experiences of rejection and acceptance from the society (Elias & Scotson, 1994), which I believe is a very personal experience. As an employee in the same company, I can relate to the fear of being judged, since I have myself once or twice been in the same position. As others also agreed with me during the interviews, especially when you are a newcomer and you don’t really know the people and the practices, it is hard to act accurately in the situations at work. Stacey refers to a study that was conducted by Elias and Scotson (1994), which basically embraces the importance of the identity that is created within a group, and how the newcomers of the group lacked this solid identity because they had no history of being together, all of which made them more vulnerable in a sense of the employees not feeling comfortable speaking out or sharing with the others. In situations where certain employees also feel that the others have more experience and more practice than them, it is very hard for them to disagree on decisions or share new ideas. It is a question also of how people handle critique. One employee shared that she is terrified just at the thought that during an official meeting she would suggest something and others would give a strong critique. She would feel personally offended and hurt as she imagines the situation: ‘I am really bad in listening to critique. I cannot handle it’. The fear of being judged can also be very easily linked to power relation aspects. As stated by Stacey (2011), Elias (1991) claims that power is not something that anyone possesses, but an activity of enabling and constraining each other. Elias states: “Power is a structural characteristic of all human relationships in that it reflects the fact that we depend of each other and so enable and constrain each other”. Because the image we have for ourselves, our identity, is the image the others have for us and the internal dialogues that we are having with ourselves. Through acceptance or rejection, we often create an image about what people think of us, and in this sense we will always be interdependent of others. This mainly refers to Mead’s concept of the ‘’generalized other” (Mead, 1934). He states that we early in life learn to take the attitude of the generalized other, as for example, when someone asks you: ’’What will people think of you in case you said or did this?’’ According to Stacey this is basically is a warning of how society in general will respond to us, and although we all are considering this in our internal dialogs, we seldom are completely aware of it. People always compare themselves with these “the significant others” (Mead, 1934), with whom we interact every day. Consciously or not, we are bound to evaluating our thoughts or actions through the prism of what is considered good and bad by the society. Since an individual is a social self, he will always be dependent on the acceptance or the rejection from others.
I find the fear and the uncertainty of the employees as not productive for the progress of the company. For example, my research revealed a shared desire among the people in the participatory activities for the company to put more efforts and focus on areas with potential, which are not fully developed and deployed yet - as the company strong knowledge about vitamins and minerals, which we are not sharing, as we are just marketing products, or the huge traffic on horse products in the websites and the contrast with the low sale level on horse products. The paradox between the common understanding that the management is considered open for inputs from employees and the fact that employees don’t feel invited to share their ideas is an important insight for the reflection in this study, because it shows the parallel of what is being said and what is being done. It shows that there is a common misbelief of an idealized situation but what happens in practice is a different case, which I consider significant for the ways the misconception is influencing the processes of innovation and change. I felt struck to discover the common understanding among the employees of the idea generation phase - going from the bottom of the pyramid to the top, when in fact, relying on my personal experience in Vitfoss, I have been witnessing goal orientated strategies, in which the management takes the decisions of the milestones we should follow. During the interview sessions the participants shared an understanding that employees can sometimes make small suggestions through the steps of the process, but to change the direction could not happen that ofthen. One states that: ’’I pushed this idea so many times, but the managers did not consider it with years. It took them five years to even start talking about it’. As an employee within the company, I have made these reflections and I was quite surprised to hear from that others not only are not realizing the case, but are also articulating an opposing statement. Writing this, I become aware that the employees have a different view from mine of how things happen. My perspective was backed up by the managers’ opinion by acknowledging that indeed the idea generating phase runs from the top to the bottom of the pyramid. Allowing yourself to speak out in spite of the fear of being judged, I come to think of it as important condition for hearing about new ideas and suggestions. In the end of my research, I have made the conclusion for myself that it was difficult to make the participants to articulate freely what they were thinking about the App. With the risk of repeating myself, I sensed that they did not feel comfortable put in that position. Even thought, they gave me a very meaningful feedback, they were all very careful on the way they were expressing themselves, for instance - thinking a lot before speaking, being unsure of stating firmly their opinion, hesitating when being asked to critique an existing idea.
This aspect intoruduces very well the other major theme, discussed in the next chapter about the importance of the quality in employees’ conversations.
DISCUSSIONS Quality of Conversations Throughout the conducted activities, the participants kept referring to the importance of connecting to the users and relating to their demands and wishes. At the same time, they acknowledged the significance in establishing a connection with the colleagues and creating a nice, friendly working environment. Among the interesting comments was the finding that the quality of the language employees use as a way of expressing themselves and communicating rightly what has been thought, is a sufficient factor for the social atmosphere at the working space. One manager spoke about the importance of being straightforward when talking with other employees and he focused special attention on the differences when speaking in your own language and when speaking in a second language. He shared that he would always have in mind the other person’s cultural differences and he would try ’’to be direct, respectful to yourself and the receiver, talking in a polite and honest way’’. He tries to articulate a focus on the speaking, not on the quality of conversations. He seems to appreciate the way we choose to express ourselves as important for transformation, creating a relationship and establishing your own role. I also come to understand the role of conversation as of extreme importance for the process of innovation. As one of the participants stated: ’’sharing the idea with the others, enriches the idea. Better ideas are being born in conversations with the others’’. I come to see the innovation process within the company as informal conversation processes most of the time in which connections, power relations, misunderstandings, diversity are of a crucial importance. While employees consider discussions and sharing ideas strongly connected with the process of reaching innovation, I also sensed a concern about the amount of time that the negotiations within the company are taking. The participants from the research activities feel that with the longer discussions, the working process becomes slower and with that the focus and the lines of the projects are constantly being changed and getting hard to follow, which creates preconditions for confusion. Having in mind my personal experience within the company and the insights from the interview sessions, I can point out a pattern of the consent among the employees that including a lot of people in a project or during the idea generation process makes it hard to establish clear responsibilities later in the creation part. Because with the mutual responsibility comes unclear lines and misunderstandings in the idea proceeding part. This could explain why the activities to encourage more participation within the App creation were not that successfully accepted. Perhaps, at first, I could not fully make sense of the employees’ articulation of the issues and the difficulties that come from mutual responsibilities but now, reading this again, I come to realize that the employees’ perspective can explain their uncertainty and reservation to engage in a participatory design project. During the interviews one of the employees, when being asked about recommendations in general to the work processes, she made a suggestion to ask the next participant of whether or not he/she knows his/hers responsibilities and job description. She then shared a story about a process of changing the name of a product that took months for people to figure it out who was responsible for that job. Since, I was also included in that project from before, I remember that I felt very confused and stressed at that time, since I was going back and forth between different people, each of them having their own requirements and perspectives which differed from one another. I also felt pressure of trying to meet every person’s demands and constantly changing and shifting my work, when in the end, since the model of keep asking different people was clearly not working, one of the managers stepped up and took the decision himself.
That same manager shared that he puts a lot of thoughts in the way he communicates with the others. He considers it a significant factor in managing people successfully. He also acknowledges that when dealing with people, he cannot fully be prepared for the outcomes of the conversations. He tries to be adaptive and inventive, even spontaneous. Larsen & Buur (2010) see the spontaneity that allows participants to imagine new roles for themselves or others as a perspective of the quality of conversations. Allowing one to be moved by others, even in unpredictable directions, and in the process seeing that others change too. To be part of this usually can be felt unsafe, because the negotiated roles between people are challenged. Daring to be spontaneous is essentially risky because it challenges power relations, which themselves are maintained only by continuously responding to each other in ways that are mutually expected (Larsen 2005). Consequently, human interaction and articulation of thoughts are normally based on context, timing, power-relations and trust. I can also acknowledge that impulsive acts and responses can change situations in an instant. Because communication is not only a tool to convey what has already been thought, but an on-going dialog in which we are constantly influenced by the responses we get, and that is what forms us as people. As Mead also states, we are social selves that are created from the interaction with others. Identities and roles emerge in the interaction with others. As it is in the discussed case, the recognition of the managerâ€™s character came from his ability to take action in a situation, in which the others were in doubt. He reacted in the moment and grabbed the opportunity by taking a decision, which in the long run creates a pattern of a certain role. I see clearly this pattern of him being perceived as a confident in making one-man decisions, as it is the case of Adword usage research. But these situations in which he is taking the initiative to make decisions reinforce the image that the others have of him and brings the presumption that he would always act like that. People would expect him to take the responsibility when the others are hesitating. Here I focus on what seems to be interdependency between power relations and spontaneity.
Coming back to the research for the App creation, I come to realize that I have used the App as an â€™excuseâ€™ to participate in a lot of conversations among the employees, raising questions and topics for issues and perspectives on company matters. But while talking with them, I have also invited them to step out of their routines by daring to discuss organisational themes, which are commonly perceived as difficult to bring up. For sure it could be stated that employees reacted spontaneous to the questions, which resulted in important insights articulation of their most private thoughts and feelings about organisational manners and processes.
DISCUSSIONS Avoiding Conflictual Situations Another important theme that was revealed in this project is the common pattern of avoiding conflicts. I was much intrigued to make sense of the sustaining power configurations and to search for ways to invite people to unrestrainfully participate in emerging diverse opinions. Avoiding conflictual situations and not expressing disagreement have been a part of the culture within the company. One of the interviewed people explains it by giving the statement: ’’this is a typical Danish behaviour’’. Some of the employees even joke that if someone is going to disagree with you, she/he would do it in a funny way, so it does not sound so serious or threatening. Another employee shares that he tries to critique another with a smile and ’’not to put it too directly as well’’. Employees also share that disagreeing with a colleague is often seen as individual attack and people feel personally offended: ’’I feel that people do not get that it is not personal. You are not disagreeing with the people but with their ideas. People should be clear about this.’’. This supports my understanding that we are dependent on others and throughout the social interactions identities are being formed and roles are being negotiated. One participant in the research feels that the theme of conflicts within the company is seen as uncomfortable topic among the management, because according to her, there is no open discussion on the matter. She wishes for more invitations to be made for unpleasant stories to be shared and resolved. She also says that ‘it is a very useful theme for me, because I am often struggling with such problems from conflict situations at work and I am suffering because I am bringing them home’, since she cannot find solutions when conflictual topics are persistently being avoid. She shares a story of a disagreeing with a colleague on the same day of the talk with her, which ends in the other person walking away in the middle of the discussion. The interviewed person, while talking to me sounds determined to resolve the problem and confront again the other colleague. She considers our session as encouraging and restful for the internal struggles she is experiencing. In that sense, she considers talking to colleagues about situations with other colleagues as useful to her, since it helps her to make sense and gives her confidence in taking actions. Conflicts seen as a driving force of change are a well-known perspective in the earlier literature of Participatory Design in which the design process is seen as political, including conflicts at almost every step (Buur & Larsen, 2010). But there could be many reasons for not taking actions after/during conflict situations. The mutual perspective within the company is the unwillingness to step into situations where there are diverse opinions. The participants in the interviews shared that they would make everything possible to avoid conflicts. Although, they agree that it is normal from time to time to disagree with the others, they would rather not get into open confrontations and would keep their opinion to themselves. However, I can’t help but wonder if they have ever made a deep reflection about what a conflict could mean for their roles, relationships to others and for the organisation. I have noticed that a conflict situation is not recognised among the employees as a situation with a lot of possibilities for change. I don’t see it productive for the organisation the mutual tendency to leave things unsaid in certain negative situations, rather than to speak out and resolve the problems, since the unresolved issues stay and the atmosphere is not clear and beneficial, as one of the interviewed employee stated that the problems stay with them, they keep the negative emotion instead of finding a solution, reflect and draw conclusions.
The idea that people, while expressing a particular view, might simultaneously be moving towards another way of responding, is not easily recognised as an opportunity among the employees. The ability of conversation to create new surprisingly different knowledge seen not to make sense to the others in the same way it does to me. The very nature of spontaneity is that things and conversations can change. However, the company model does not allow for such a change to happen and I have come to see this as an inherent problem. Larsen (2012) gives his perspective on the matter: ’’If we focus more on the dynamics – such as the shifting, enabling and constraining incidents that occur in the web of conversations – then perhaps our way of working with the conflicts will change.’’ Over the last 18 months, I have become increasingly aware of problems lacking this kind of reflection. For instance, the story of some colleagues not getting along, and the management avoiding resolving the case with open talks and the situation resulted in the nervous breakdown of one of the employees. The paradox in the topic of avoiding conflicts is that in fact in general, the management had taken efforts in resolving such negative situations by encouraging open talks among the employees, or at least there had been a constant talk on the matter. The managers have tried to organise a lot of team building sessions in and outside of the office, they have executed many informal gatherings in different places, combining the working agenda with unofficial joint activities. And yet, emloyees are not leting go of the old way of not sharing their concerns.
Having articulated these discussions, I had been thinking about how I could explain in a way that would encourage people to notice what might emerge in the conflicutual conversations. During my conversations with the employees I have tried to encourage a heightened awareness of the issues in the company. Within my talks about the App, I have tried to make small provocations to the participants in order to trigger some disagreements or situation with diverse opinions, but unfortunately, no one responded in that way. During all my talks within the research, while asking for ideas or feedback, no one made a real critique or raised a discussion. Reading this, I now come to think of the validity of their suggestions and whether or not they have given me their real opinions on the matters.
DISCUSSIONS Gossip and Shadow Themes As an aspect of power relations, Elias and Scotson (1994) describes how humans tend to organize in groups (we) in opposition to the others (them) in processes of inclusion and exclusion in which gossip plays an important role. Gluckmann understands gossip as ‘among the most important societal and cultural phenomena’ (1963:307) and, like Elias, finds that gossip serves a useful purpose in maintaining the cohesion of social groups. Over the years each employee has participated in different conversations with colleagues in which gossip about the others has helped them to establish their relationships, identities, find new ways of collaborating with one another and with the clients. The gossip comes because during the official interactions, some of the themes are not discussed. Perhaps an open invitation has been missing or it is because of the company nature to avoid unpleasantness. As long as employees keep being capable of working efficiently, the need for a conversation is not recognised by the management. Most of them prefer to discuss problems or to raise questions first with other colleagues, then eventually to bring the topic to the management. One of the interviewed managers understands gossip as an occurrence happening when employees expect actions from the management and the act is not being done. So, in his understanding, employees gossip to find out their own arguments and evaluate their ideas. The other interviewed manager explains his perspective on the theme of gossip as happening in situations, where the plan is not clear to everyone or the information provided from the management is not enough. Sequentially, they both agree that when a talk or an action is missing from the directorate, unofficial stories are spreading and speculation appears. Stacey (2000, 2001, and 2011) suggests that the themes organizing the experience of being together in organizations have shadow aspects intertwined with legitimate aspects. In other words, conversations are patterned as both shadow and legitimate themes at the same time. This occurrence is what Larsen (2012) refers to as Shadow Themes. Shadow themes can be described as patterns of talking that involve fantasizing, playing or containing anxiety and releasing frustration. Telling jokes about corporate leaders, disseminating gossip and rumours, engaging in boycotts and passive resistance are all shadow communicational interactions. Stacey is convinced that this activity might actually be ’’economically productive’’ and lead to better solutions or to the creation of new problems, if people question what they normally do and debate alternatives to their routines. But as it is in my case, inviting people to step outside of their usual routines and to experience new participatory endeavours in participatory design sessions did not prove so productive in the end. The notion that the manager would take the decision in the end about the idea and the design of the future App, based on his own judgment, downplays and undermines the conducted research with its findings. In that sense, the participatory design of the future App will remain only a vision within the company, not an implementation. From a position of working with participatory design practices in an organisation, I find these aspects problematic.
Researcherâ€™s Struggles In companies, it will be accurate to state that projects are run by people. One is in charge of a project case or when it comes to a joint project - there is always one, who has more decisive role and whom others perceive as a leader. In the academic literature, there have been a lot of works investigating how employees in organisations respond to superiors with power to make decisions and to people with a strong presence and recognised dominant roles (Stacey, 2011). But the literature is missing a clear statement about the attitude when it comes to the question of how employees perceive a colleague, in charge of a project of including the others, only facilitating events and activities, whoâ€™s responsibility is only about the involvement of the others, but the outcomes are actually a responsibility of the stakeholders participating in these processes. As it is my case, I was not seen as a facilitator, I was also not seen as a person with the power to bring change and to force participation. But I was definitely seen as the person in charge and the person responsible for the outcome, which contradicts to the core concept of being a facilitator. During the whole study, I have put many efforts to show that my role is only to gather information about the App from the stakeholders. I specifically encouraged their own engagement within the process by distancing myself the whole time from taking any decisions or giving any personal ideas and opinions. There were many cases in which I was asked to share my own perspective and I was very often pushed to make the decisions myself, which I turned down because it was not my intention at the first place. I tried to make it clear that it is a joint mutual project and I am only conducting the research and facilitating the activities. However, the study was understood as my project and the others saw themselves as just participating in certain parts of it. Others saw me as the person who was doing all the work. Perhaps stating something is not enough, perhaps I did not succeed in showing my role accurately, but perhaps it could be explained by the common understanding among the employees in Vitfoss that if it is you that is keep pushing the project and conducting the activities, it is your responsibility to finish it and presente the results.
CONCLUSION This part describes the main contributions in terms of theoretical insights and practice developments. Outlining this, some directions for a future research are being drawn, as well as a statement of the drawbacks during the study. After conducting the three months research within the company, I consider my work as a contribution to the work of the professors in SDU within the theme of Participatory Design practices, when the understanding that conflicts are seen as a resource for participatory innovation, is being discussed. The core tradition of the Participatory Design thinking (Buur & Matthews, 2008) lies in the ideology of involving different workers in the processes of innovation, especially when designing and creating new products and solutions is concerned. But what happens when tools from participatory innovation and participatory design tradition are being used, and yet the efforts have not paid off. I have recognised difficulties in involving the employees in the participatory work I tried to facilitate and during the time of the project, I have push myself very hard to make sense of the setbacks because of which stakeholders could not embrace the participatory practices. My understanding of the unsuccess lies in the paradoxical tension between manoeuvring in ways that avoids open conflicts and stating opinions and the shadow themes that appear from not resolving negative situation in an open way. Vitfoss is a company that is first stepping into the comprehension of participatory innovation beyond the common perspective of one man doing a project, responsible fully for the outcomes. The hesitation in accepting my invitation to participate in the innovation process, not just partly contributing to what was considered â€œmy projectâ€?, I can explain with not being educated enough and not having a similar background experience. There is also a pattern of neglecting the importance of users and stakeholders involvement at this point within the company. However desirable, this change is not easy. Although my project could be seen as encouraging creating awareness about the key themes I have articulated, it is also a huge challenge to implement participatory practices in the ways we are working and doing things in Vitfoss. Employees within the company are bound by the unwillingness to disagree with each other, which ends up in avoiding conflict situations and instead of negotiating themes in critical moments, such situations are quickly cleared away so the employees can move on with their work responsibilities. From a complex processes perspective, the identities of the employees are continuously negotiated in the on-going interactions and their perspectives of each other. It could be claimed for sure that from the on-going interaction between the author and the other involved stakeholders, it was established a different kind of social interactions at the workplace, having in mind the insights from the participatory sessions. However, new values and understandings have failed to be created in being part of a discussion together. Invitation for the employees to experience new participatory practices was certainly present but breaking the boundaries and the established company customs was not achieved as I hoped in the beginning of the conducted research. In the end I wonder what it is so fundamental for employees in doing their work, and their understanding of work practices, that is being so difficult for them to engage in different/new ways of working. In the light of this, what I can find as important for the employees is to run risks in the presented new situations. Having said that, I would also like to articulate the outcomes of difficult accepted participatory practices within the theme of power relations and in particular within the sense employees and management make in connection to taking decisions and applying new practices. In a company, a notion, coming from the management is seen from the employees as if the implementation is obligatory, because of the power that the management possess to make employees apply it. However, if employees do not accept easily the new concept and that concept is said to be implemented, the management uses their position to force the employees to apply the concept. In that sense, there is a repeating pattern of employees and managers responding to each otherâ€™s perspectives and expectations and reinforcing each other the same time to follow the presumptions for their actions.
Having said that, I come to think that if the management is not recognising the need to apply a principle or practice, in that sense, the employees might also not obtain the attitude to practice it. The manager who is supposed to take the decision for the final App, according to his own understandings, is not recognising in that sense the participatory design practices that had been conducted. Involving stakeholders within an organisation is important for reaching a participatory innovation. The pattern I come to see in the company of one man taking the decision is undermining and constraining the participatory involvement in the processes of innovation. By pointing out the main themes, discussed in the previous chapter and the way I see how they are influencing the process of change and innovation within the company, I am creating a new understanding and awareness among the employees of the processes of user-driven and participatory innovation. I come to understand the times of change as a requirement, precondition and important dimension that can instigate some traits of innovation. In the end I would like to conclude that instead of calling my efforts a failure, the reflections about this particular situation of difficult stakeholders involvement in the processes of participatory innovation and participatory design, which I believe is quite recognisable in many other companies, is my major argument and contribution of the drawbacks when applying participatory approaches in an organisation.
Future Research Having clarified my statements, I feel also obligated to acknowledge that the conclusions and the insights gathered are from a local case study. It would be helpful to compare these results from this particular company with the outcomes of carried same or similar researches in other companies. It would be interesting for a future investigation to gain more knowledge of the fall downs when it comes to including stakeholders within the process of innovation and whether or not one would discover different preconditions and effects that the ones discussed by me. What is it to make the participatory methods to work? Can we reach a clear position on when they work and when they donâ€™t?
REFERENCES Beel, J. & Gipp, B. & Wilde, E. (2010). Academic Search Engine Optimization (ASEO): Optimizing Scholarly Literature for Google Scholar & Co. Journal of Scholarly Publishing January 2010 doi: 10.3138/jsp.41.2.176 Buur, J., Ankenbrand, B. & Mitchell, R. (2013). Participatory Business Modelling. CoDesign: International Journal of CoCreation in Design and the Arts 9 (1). 55-71 Buur, J. & Larsen, H. (2010). The quality of conversations in participatory innovation, CoDesign, Vol. 6 No. 3, pp. 121–138. Buur, J. & Matthews B. (2008). Participatory Innovation, International Journal of Innovation Management, Vol. 12 No. 3, pp. 255–273. Elias, N. & Scotson, J.L. (1994). The Established and the Outsiders: A Sociological Enquiry into Community Problems. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Fonseca, J. (2002). Complexity and Innovation in Organizations. London: Routledge. Goffman, Erving (1959). The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. New York: Anchor Books. Gottlieb, Fr. & Larsen, H. & Sørensen, V. (2012). Multi Stakeholder Innovation Greener, S. (2008). Business Research Methods, first edition Griffin, D. (2002). The Emergence of Leadership: Linking Self-Organization and Ethics, London; New York: Routledge. Koskinen, Lipo at all. (2011). Design Research through practice: From the Lab, Field and Showroom. Elsevier Inc.: USA Larsen, H. (2012). Innovation as improvisation in the shadow Larsen, H. & Lima, P. & Olsen, B. & Teneva, I. (2013). Entrepreneurship as Social Interaction. In Proceedings of CINet Conference’ 13. Continuous Innovation Network Conference: 2013, Nijmegen, the Netherlands. Long, F. (2009). Real or imaginary: The effectiveness of using personas in product design. In Proceedings of the Irish Ergonomics Society Annual Conference (pp. 1-10). Machiavelli, N. (1513). The Prince. Maxwell, J. (2003). Innovation is a social process. Ottawa: Statistics Canada Mead, G.H. (1934). Mind, Self, and Society from the Standpoint of a Social Behaviorist, Chicago, Ill.: The University of Chicago press. Osterwalder, A. & Pigneur, Y. (2010). Business Model Generation. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons.
Pedrosa, A. (2009). Motivating stakeholders for co-created innovation. The Open Source Business Resource. December, 35-39 Schon, D. A. (1982). The Reflective Practitioner: how professionals think in action. Basic Books: United States of America Senge, P. M.(1990). The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organisation. New York, Doubleday. Shaw, P. (2002). Changing Conversations in Organizations. A Complexity Approach to Change, London, New York: Routledge. Shaw, P. (2005). Conversational Inquiry as an Approach to Organization Development. Journal of Innovative Management, 11, 34-37. Shensul, S. & Schensul, J. & LeCompt, M. (1999). Essential Ethnographic Methods: Observations, interviews, and Questionnaires. (Ethnographerâ€™s Toolkit: Vol. 2). AltaMira Press Silverman, D. (2005). Doing Qualitative Research. SAGE Publications: London Stacey, R. D. (2001). Complex Responsive Processes in Organizations: Learning and Knowledge Creation, London: Routledge. Stacey, R. D. (2003b). Complexity and Group Processes: A Radically Social Understanding of Individuals, New York, NY: Brunner-Routledge. Stacey, R. D. (2003a). Strategic Management and Organisational Dynamics: The Challenge of Complexity, Harlow, England, New York: Prentice Hall/Financial Times. Stacey, R. D. (2007b). The Challenge of human Interdependence. European Business Review, 19 (4), 292â€“302. Stacey, R.D. (2001). What Can It Mean to Say That the Individual is Social Through and Through?, Published in Group analysis, 34, 4, ISSN 0533-3164 Stacey, R.D. & Griffin,D. & Shaw, P. (2000). Complexity and Management: fad or radical challenge to system thinking? London: Routledge.