Innovation through Knowledge Transfer


Last week as part of my association with Argenta Nova I attended InnovationKT 2015 which is an international conference focussing on innovation and knowledge transfer, organised by KES International and, this time, hosted by Staffordshire University.

In the keynote by Prof. Ian Oakes, (the president of the Institute of Knowledge Transfer – IKT) I was inspired and excited not just because I had found a new niche in which Innovation and Knowledge (my two favourite hashtags) are being smashed together but also the rider that seems to encompass my favourite area of deployment, Natural Capital, where (as you can see in the slide above) he says:

There is a need for new economic models which do not just rely on depleting natural resources.

He also told an interesting complexity story about how new investment had the reverse effect of taking skilled individuals out of an existing supply chain.

I also loved the two metaphorical definitions he gave of what a university is:

A source of strength like a medieval castle – Lord Dearing

Anchors in local economies – HEFCE


On the afternoon we had a really interesting guided tour of the Emma Bridgewater pottery works which on the face of it made pottery a COMPLICATED process following clear, good practice steps but it was great to see how individuals are given the freedom to decorate each item as they wish (but only over and above a specified minimum). The number of embedded lessons learned in the process made this an exemplary example of knowledge review, learning and transfer.

On day 2 Dr Steve Welch, director of the KTN (Knowledge Transfer Network) took us through an interesting concept of a pyramid made up of many small creative ideas which could each be useful in another industry. This is similar to but not exactly what Altshuler the Russian inventor, did with his analysis of patents when he derived the TRIZ approach to innovation. I warmed to the idea that merging the individual KTNs would help disseminate creative ideas and knowledge between disciplines, as long as the typical efficiencies and standardisation of a merger is carefully sidestepped.


My Argenta colleague Alan Drummond and I closed the conference with a facilitated participatory narrative session looking at mapping the narrative landscape of Innovation through Knowledge Transfer. It was good fun, everyone agreed that it had been participatory, very revealing and very useful. I have just produced a workshop session report which is now up on Slideshare here.

It is funny when working with a new group that no-one commented that a big difference between the stories told was that group 2 spoke almost entirely in three letter abbreviations which I think shows a maturity in their method, that they can express complex events in three letters but should act as a warning when they try and fail to communicate with a wider audience.


Welcome to Narratopia, the story sharing game


During one of our regular PNI skype chats, Cythia (Kurtz) happened to mention a new game she had created and was prototyping. Called Narratopia and now launched with its own website here but with a full explanation of the rules and ideas behind the game here. I quickly offered to be a guinea pig and a few days later, an airmailed pack arrived at my door.

I mentioned it to my friend Ian and he suggested a game in the Bainton Reading Room which is in a local village just to the North West of Peterborough. We had used this venue for a recent (local) Ted talks evening about storytelling..

Last week we all met up, a nice blue chequered table cloth and very nice red wine and the group of 5 of us set off playing.

It was a very interesting experience all round. We all thought we would just be sharing our own often told stories. The first story was one about an elderly parent in a care home being bought a mobility scooter. A great story that revealed a lot about the storyteller. My question card said “How do you feel about…” and I added “giving such freedom and mobility to your dad”. What followed was a period of deep thought and a true outpouring of emotion and warmth. The other questions were about quite technical and practical aspects of the story. At the end of this round my question was voted by far the best because “it really made me think about our relationship and remember those days so clearly”.

In writing this post I have just checked Cynthia’s blog about Narratopia and was pleased to read her comment about the games intent:

I realized that what should matter most in the game are connections and explorations, because that’s what people do when they share stories. They connect their experiences together, and they explore what their experiences mean.


The game was deemed a great success by us all. Two hours of non-stop conversation and storytelling, linking stories and exploring our innermost feelings, loosely constrained and helped along by the questions and link cards. I collated everyone’s feedback and sent the pictures and comments to Cynthia in order to improve the playability of the game.


Oh, and for the record my friend Ian won, so he is now the reigning champion of Bainton, Great Britain and, I think (as it was the first game played here) Europe. So what better prize for a European Narratopia Champion than a bottle of Whitby Heritage real ale.

Get your early order in now to Cythia as I think the first batch will sell out very quickly.


Have you ever wondered how the flocks of sheep on the fells are separated from one another by the farmers without using walls and fences? A HEFTED flock is one that stays in the same place. The HEFTED sheep simply don’t wander far from where they were born, it is as if they belong to that piece of land.

As a great example of oral history, this wonderful short film explores hefting in relation to the sheep and then the farmers themselves.

I love the idea that the sheep do not need traditional boundaries. Listen out in particular for the old lady who locates her personal sense of belonging to the surrounding geology.

It is still a puzzle to me why I seem to have shifted my ‘primary heft’ from Sunderland (where I was born) to Whitby, where my heart does indeed arise on the approach road down from Pickering and the North Yorks National Park.

HEFTED was commissioned by Eden Arts as a companion piece to their FLOCK project.

Hares in places never seen before

lights out

Back in October 2006 English Nature ceased to be, so in the August we put together a newspaper to celebrate some of our achievements. I came across my treasured copy this morning and thought you might like to share some of our more humorous stories…

First up, the North East Team.

Conducting a site visit with a consultant and DEFRA to discuss a great crested newt case, wearing (unknowingly) a hard-hat with an ‘I’ve been to diggerland’ sticker on it.

Convincing a keeper that our advice on managing his blanket bog would not affect grouse numbers, whilst one of the few remaining grouse got up from under my feet, leaving most of its feathers behind and others falling off as it flew away.

A lady phoned to tell us she had found a moth that looked very rare. A Conservation Officer advised that the museum would be interested in seeing it and so explained how to ensure its safe-keeping overnight. When I returned to the phone to relay this information, the lady said “Oh, I am sorry, my cat has eaten it”.

A Director arrived at the office with his large pilot’s case and was delighted to be greeted with a cheerful “Ah, we have been waiting for you, come this way”. Only to be led to a disembowelled photocopier needing repair by our new receptionist.

Evacuating a huge shared office complex and calling out the bomb squad to dispose of what turned out to be a punnet of strawberries.

On receiving a phone call from children who had found a bat, I was about to launch into the standard advice when they told me that the problem was that they did not know what to feed it, so had tried a bowl of cereal which the bat had promptly fallen into and was now covered from head to toe in milky sugar puffs.

Now a few from the Wiltshire Team:

Our Deputy Team Manager and Assistant conservation officer parked the 25 year old minibus on Parsonage Down National Nature Reserve, and left the doors open. Heifer number 25 got in and ate the keys. No spare keys left, so the bus had to be rescued by a flat bed truck. Subsequently featured in the Times…

Pesky stone curlews ruined a local village celebration of the Queens’ 75th birthday by nesting next to a beacon stopping it being lit. A Conservation Officer had to explain this to the villagers.

A nameless Wiltshire Team Manager addressing the Team at a Team Building event stood back and stepped on an English Nature sheepdog’s tail. The dog duly responded with a bite to the Team Manager’s inner thigh – priceless!

A small child covered in elephant hawkmoths at a moth evening.

During the foot and mouth crisis one of our Conservation Officers made the immortal quote to the local press. “There are hares in places we have never seen before”.

I will share some of our ‘nature successes’ stories in later blogs but it is interesting how the story of something that went wrong is so appealing and memorable.

An age of innocence and wonder

fairy dell

Evidence that I was always interested in nature from an early age. Back in about 1964 a photographer from the Sunday Sun (a North-East England Newspaper) approached us in a local park in Sunderland and asked if we would pose for a photograph. This is the picture that was published that Sunday. Although captioned that we were catching sticklebacks, the bucket is full of water boatmen who’s ability to walk on water was far more interesting to us than a few easy to catch fish.

We were out on our own, exploring the park, beach and seafront at the highly responsible age of seven. That’s me in the middle, Stephen on the left and Stuart on the right. I love the detail of my knitted jumper and the fact that Stephen obviously didn’t have a handkerchief.




Gallipoli – “the flies are terrible, worse than the Turks”



At the end of 1914 my granddad, Ernest Donaldson, joined the army where he began his training and stayed in tents at Aldershot until January 2nd 1915.

The sequence of events that led to him joining the army went something like this:


Jun 28th Archduke Francis Ferdinand assassinated at Sarajevo

Jul 28th Austria-Hungary declares war against Serbia

Aug 1st Germany declares war against Russia

Aug 3rd Germany declares war against France

Aug 4th German invasion of Belgium. GB declares war against Germany

Aug 12th GB declares war on Austria-Hungary

Aug 23rd Japan declare war on Germany

Nov 5th GB declares war against Turkey

Luckily from 1915 onwards he kept a diary and most days captured what would have been his twitter or facebook status. A few years ago I set about transcribing most of his daily thoughts. So it now seems appropriate, exactly 100 years later to publish his personal story. Part one – Gallipoli… [copyright @rondon all rights reserved]


Jan 2nd

Went to LLANDRINDOD WELLS. Made an allotment(will) leaving everything to my mother.

Jan 12th

I bought Polly’s [my grandmother] engagement ring

Transferred to South Wales Borderers

Mar 29th

We were fully equipped for 1 Company and first draft but it was cancelled. Had to parade every day until orders came. Askew was our sergeant.

Mar 30th

Just the usual rout march etc. Pictures at night.

Apr 1st

At the Pavilion at night, it was great – a revue – one of the best that has been here.

Apr 2nd

No parade today. Dave, Dick, Archie and I went for a long walk, it was a lovely night.

Apr 5th

Roll call, then dismissed. The weather was glorious and the sports went off fine, took Sybil [don’t ask] Top of the list with 32 points.

Apr 6th

Raining like hell, pictures at night. Sybil went away, a very nice girl, promised to send me a photo.

Apr 10th

Received orders, examined by doctor – passed fit. Had to give our kit in. Dick and I were a bit late, and got left behind. Talk about rotten luck, spent a miserable day. Everything can go to hell.

Continue reading

Ask the Audience

coventryEarlier this week I gave a presentation to the, student led, Proactive Project Management Conference at Coventry University.

Following a useful talk on Change Management by Jane Cosgrove of DHL, I decided to follow her lead in asking the attendees questions to build  greater engagement.

My first question (and remember the background of the students was mostly engineering/project management)was ” How many of you use TRIZ?” Answer – None. “How many of you know what TRIZ is?” Answer – None.

A little later, after explaining the cynefin framework with examples pulled  from their own context, Which cynefin domain do you think ‘putting on a conference like this’ should be? No votes for anything else other than ‘complicated’.