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.


#TRIZ Trends at a beer festival

Experiment02 TRIZ Trends at a Beer FestivalClick on the flyer above to read more clearly.

The proceedings of the day will be summarised as a Slide Show and published on Slideshare as soon after the event as possible.

Seasoned KM and Innovation professionals may want to combine this event with the preceding ecology of knowledge masterclass plus  beer festival the day before on Tuesday 19th August.

Anyone staying on after 17:30 to watch bands and eat more german sausages will not be the responsibility of Ecology of Knowledge.

Horses for main courses

The Uffington Horse
The Uffington Horse

I see that the food minister says that we should not throw away horse contaminated food as there is no health issue...

By strange coincidence, yesterday, I picked up and bought this intriguing book from a Charity Shop, ‘The Pattern under the plough’ by George Ewart Evans and in it he explores why he thinks that we do not eat horse in this country:

From the early domestication of the horse, it has been suggested, there grew up so strong a link between horse and man that the horse became sacrosanct: his flesh became taboo and acquired a sacred or exalted character.

Certain animals in early times became totems … The clan developed a direct symbiotic relation with its totem and each member identified himself with it. Each clan or totem group was responsible for the fecundity and plentifulness of the animal or plant that it stood for.

As a result hobby horses appear in many countryside ceremonies and ritual dances.

The Celts, as befitted a nomadic people, prized the horse highly: theirs was essentially a horse culture.

Look also at the horse monuments carved into the chalk downs of southern England

It seems therefore that our aversion to horse may be one of the very aspects of our life that make us British, and just because it is safe to eat doesn’t make it right or we would eat cats, dogs, rats, badgers and perhaps our overweight siblings. So Owen Paterson, if the horse lasagne and burgers are safe to eat why don’t we all deliver them to Westminster and you can live on them for the next few years.

Eco building

I watched the Grand Designs programme on a house built underground in the Lake District this evening and the end result seemed to lack any real fun or intrigue. While I was at Hautbois Girl Guide centre last week I was shown around their planned eco-village which has its main building about a third completed and the rest of the village in very early planning stages. My favourite eco-village of all still remains Cae Mabon in Snowdonia, once visited never forgotten, it still holds special memories of sitting telling stories round a fire in an iron age round house. Here is a quite recent story of how it all came to be and how Eric Maddern created such a magical place:


Flag Fen – a story in pictures

Realising that the schools went back on Monday we decided to visit Flag Fen before the school trips begin. I love this place with its roundhouses and the chance to view some incredible bronze age and roman archaeology in situ. There is plenty of detail on wikipedia and the official website so here is our photo story of our visit.

Flag Fen is so named after the yellow flag iris which grows in this wonderful habitat.

At any time of the year this is a wonderful place for wildlife photography. This I think is the Common Darter.

This is an anthropological experiment to prove that the bronze age people were socially active and able to tweet from their vestibule.

The Soay sheep here are remarkably agile for being 2000 years old and the fence has survived so well it looks like it was made yesterday.

Evidence of the bronze age prototype of SenseMaker where visitors narrative fragments are captured on rice paper lining the walls of the houses.

I had to be physically dragged away from sitting on this chair in the iron age roundhouse.

Here the ancient timbers (bottom of picture) still in-situ, are kept damp to preserve them. The painted landscape behind show the ancient walkway across the fen

Finally, proof that even the iron age residents were concerned about what their hair looked like in wall paintings.

Flag Fen is open daily until the end of September and at only £5 admission you would be silly not to visit.

ProgBury – A Sunday of unadulterated pleasure

Two weekends ago I went to Bury St Edmunds with my friend Mick to savour day two of ‘ProgBury’, a festival of progressive bands at the brand new, opened that week, Apex centre. The Apex centre is fabulous, the view and the sound were great and the line-up warranted a stage of its own at Reading (in 1974). Here though, there was an air of middle aged men in a library or very quiet beer festival between acts but live festivals don’t always have to be huge crowds, mud and flags.

We missed the first band, Godsticks as my map reading meant we circled the town twice but Re-Genesis were terrific, running through all the early tracks before Gabriel left such as the Knife and the Musical Box. They had everything perfect even down to Gabriel’s voice.

Mostly Autumn

Then came Mostly Autumn, a more recent prog rock band who were highly impressive and had the biggest following of the day.

Martin Turner's Wishbone Ash

Only eight days after seeing Andy Powell’s ‘official’ Wishbone Ash’ over at Wilbarston Hall near Corby it was great now to see Martin Turners version hit the stage, and I know Mick doesn’t agree, but I prefer this version of the band, I love all the theatrics, the sense of fun and the sound of their twin guitars in harmony really took me back to the seventies.

The Hawklords 2010 featuring Nik Turner

Finally the Hawklords were a dream come true, I first saw them back in 1974 at the Sunderland Mecca on the Space Ritual Tour, then again in about 1985 at Southend Cliffs Pavilion but this gig in 2010 was everything I had hoped for:

Chaotic sounds from which the patterns slowly emerged and then the rhythms repeated as hypnotic laser punctuated visuals filled the hall, and that was just ‘Born to Go’ as the opener. Nik Turner took to the stage in a flashy grey shiny suit and waved enthusiastically with both arms at the crowd. I was back in 1974 and had never realised how prominent and important was the Nik Turner saxophone. ‘Masters of the Universe’ was just out of this world, I tried videoing but I couldn’t help bouncing with the beat and didn’t want to miss a second of this mesmerising show. Then as quick as it started it was over, we were running over an hour over and they had to stop, Nik told us “he would have gone on all night” so no Silver Machine this time.

Thanks ProgBury you sent two middle aged men home very happy and the 76 mile drive seemed well worth the experience, looking forward to next year already. Can we have Uriah Heep, Caravan and Gong but please no ELP?.

Turds on the line

Now don’t get me wrong, I love public transport and I don’t normally get worked up about the lesser issues only about getting to my destination on time. However today is turning out to be more eventful than I anticipated.
Having booked a reduced fare East Coast Rail first class advance ticket last week, I arrived at Peterborough station early and as an earlier train stood at the platform, I watched the on board toilet flush. Eager to see if I was right, the train moved off leaving a large fresh brown turd with a trailing toilet paper scarf smiling up at all of us on the platform. A quick scan along the track and I spotted other similar tell tale piles of toilet paper every few feet and associated bluebottles and flies.
Is this acceptable in 2010? I cannot think of an easier situation for flies to vector disease direct from fresh faeces to humans, since the iron age. If we ever do have an outbreak of toilet based d in the future we would probably need to consider closing down the railways to prevent further dispersal.

Surely it is not outside the creative genius of carriage designers to develop a sieve that comes into place under the train when stationary but moves away at say 30 miles per hour when away from heavily populated stations?

Paws for thought

On Sunday morning I went for a walk along the beach at Chapel St Leonards on the Lincolnshire Coast (just above Skegness) with my friend David primarily for him to revisit and photograph a childhood holiday location. Walking along the beach watching birds, observing and discussing sand dune erosion we came upon what looked at first like exposures of a rocky wave cut platform which on closer inspection turned out to be heavy blue-grey clay. I presumed ( think rightly) this to be post-glacial boulder clay and it contained a lot of woody vegitative material.

Remembering a recent program on the coastal revealing of human footprints on a similar clay exposure I started to scour the strangely moonlike beds until I found this, and no before you even suggest it, I didn’t make it with a bit of stick.

Am I a committing typical business consultancy behaviour in finding exactly what I am looking for and first fit pattern matching, did someone draw this  in the clay the previous day or is this evidence of some large clawed beast that prowled the area 20,000 years ago?

Foundations for a roundhouse

photo by Jens Aaberg-Jørgensen
photo by Jens Aaberg-Jørgensen

I have always been attracted to the idea of a round house and find these clan homes in Fujian absolutely fascinating. What struck me, and I can’t believe I am the first to spot it, is the amazing similarity in layout with our very own stonehenge and I just wonder if a similar structure may have existed there and all we now see are the foundations.

clan homestonehenge










What I particularly like about the article is one of the reasons quoted for choosing a round construction:

Local superstition holds that evil spirits are everywhere, especially along roads and in brooks, streams and mountain passes. Every corner in a rectangular building is an opportunity for evil spirits to enter the building as the circular tulou have no corners, spirits are more likely to pass by

My upcoming workshop in London

Having recently joined the Centre for Narrative Leadership I have offered to run the first of a series of evening workshops based around the use of narrative. Geoff Mead who runs the centre has issued the following ‘open to all’  invite. I will be sharing the usual mix of stories and ideas, liberally seasoned with hexagons and oxytocin. Please feel free to come along, just let me know if you are intending to attend so that we can manage the numbers:

The first of the Centre for Narrative Leadership series of London-based workshops takes place on Monday 7th September from 6.30pm – 9.30pm at Friends House, Euston Road, London NW1 2JB.

Please come if you can, bring a colleague or friend and let other people know.  The cost is £15 (payable by cheque or cash on the night). It would help if you can let me (or Ron) know by email in advance if you are coming.  See our website for others in the series.  Hope to see you there.

Knowledge Ecology Workshop details:

Why do we feel the need to ‘manage and control’ everything. In nature these two terms are meaningless. In nature, process and behaviours are attracted around naturally occurring patterns. So why don’t we learn from this and work with nature not against it. Storytelling, stories and communities all co-evolved thousands of years ago together with the necessary neurological, cognitive and social processes.

In this workshop we will unwind all the abstract wrappings of modern consultancy, management and business practices to reveal what we once had but have now forgotten and look at how best you can add this line of thought to your own approach to narrative.

Workshop Leader: Ron Donaldson,  Knowledge Ecologist. Ron worked for English Nature for 21 years through a variety of Computing and Knowledge Management roles. He is a certified  Cognitive Edge practitioner having used their narrative based methods for the last ten years. An experienced conference speaker, facilitator and trainer, he became an independent consultant last year and has recently become a trainer in TRIZ the Theory of Inventive Problem Solving.

Geoff Mead MBA PhD,
Director, Centre for Narrative Leadership

What will change everything?

Another serendipitous trail and I stumble on a hugely interesting resource that will no doubt absorb hours of my precious time. Over at The Edge they have asked the above question for 2009 and received 151 contributions from eminent scientists, philosophers and lots of people I have never heard of.

My personal favourite having read only the first section is that of Robert C Shank Psychologist & Computer Scientist in his answer entitled Wisdom Reborn where he says:

In bygone days we lived in groups that had wise men (and women) who told stories to younger people if they thought that those stories might be relevant to their needs. This was called wisdom and teaching and it served as way of passing one generation’s experiences to the next.

Those days of just in time storytelling will return. The storyteller will be your computer. The computers we have today are capable of understanding your needs and finding just the right (previously archived and indexed) wise man (or woman) to tell you a story, just when you need it, that will help you think something out. Some work needs to be done to make this happen of course.

I particular like his point about current book size being “an artifact of what length book sells” so to expect the size of information to change. This correlates highly with the narrative fragments approach of ‘Cognitive Edge’.