Wildlife Adventures in Eastern Europe 2012-15 – a new book

david book

A good friend of mine, David Withrington, has just had a book published. I went with him, several years ago, on one of his adventures to Slovenia and had a hugely enjoyable and knowledge expanding time.

Wildlife Adventures in Eastern Europe 2012-15: Estonia, Bulgaria, Greece and Macedonia, Hungary and Slovakia – an illustrated account of summer visits by a group of naturalists from England. David Withrington and Paul Raven, 2017. 104 pages with 360 colour photographs. Available here from Natural History Book Service £12.50

What do staff of the statutory nature conservation agencies do when they retire? Go on holiday of course!

In June 2012, David Withrington, Paul Raven, Neil Hailey, Peter Marren and Steve Berry – all former staff of English Nature and its predecessor body – decided to visit Estonia, a country to which none of them had been before. The objective was to discover the country’s wildlife, especially the birds, butterflies and flowering plants. The accommodation and itinerary were arranged after online research by David.

The main features of Estonia are – its Baltic coastline, large areas of peat bog and Lake Peipsi, which sits on the border with Russia – though this did not seem to deter the birds. It was not just the amazing variety of wildlife and habits which made the holiday, but encounters with people, cultures and nightlife. All these are chronicled and illustrated in the book. The reader lives the journey with our intrepid adventurers. 

Continue reading “Wildlife Adventures in Eastern Europe 2012-15 – a new book”

TRIZ Inventive Principle 26: Copying

I saw this in a car park in Knaresborough, Yorkshire on Monday. What a great way to deter people from parking in an area that needs to be kept clear, by way of copying a real garage.

TRIZ Inventive principle 26: Copying
A. Replace unavailable, expensive, fragile object with inexpensive copies
B. Replace an object, or process with optical copies.

If you would like to learn more about TRIZ we run regular courses for both engineers and our brand new course of ‘TRIZ for Dummies’. More information here.

Innovation through Knowledge Transfer

InKT201501

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

InKT201502

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.

InKT201503

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.

InKT201504

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.

 

 

 

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’.

Participatory storytelling about Natural Capital

NCparticipatory

In November I ran a PNI (Participatory Narrative Inquiry) -based workshop at the Valuing our Life Support Systems Summit #VOLSS at the British Library in London.

The summit, hosted by the Natural Capital Initiative (NCI), brought together 250 scientists, policy makers and business representatives to debate how we can better preserve the elements of nature on which human society and the economy depend.

Knowing that we (Sarah Chimbwandira, director at Surrey Wildlife Trust and myself) had less than an hour in total, we designed the session to maximise the participative elements. I trimmed out my introduction entirely, saying they “could find out more about me on-line if they so wished”.

Our promotion of the session via a pre-conference blog by Sarah on ‘Natural Capital needs relevant stories to be told as well as good science‘, together with mentions on Twitter and at previous sessions meant that we were oversubscribed, which was exactly what we wanted.

A very brief overview of the excellent progress so far of Surrey Connects, by Mark Pearson the CEO, set the scene and we were off with hand-cut hexagons and sharpies (other marker pens are available).

The participants were invited to capture their thoughts and feelings about the current state of ‘Natural Capital’ and then, in reverse (to disrupt linear thinking) they were asked to complete a hexagon for each of the key decisions, events and turning points that had led us to where we are today.

I ran around the tables to encourage participation and keep the energy and progress as high as possible.

Next they were asked to “imagine in two years, if everything that could go right (in relation to the adoption of Natural Capital), does go right. What would that look like?” Then, again in reverse, “what might be the decisions and events that might need to happen?” I added that “the first step might be the most important to focus upon”.

NCnarrativeQuickly moving on, nominated storytellers told the story of their table to two, separately, visiting groups in around five minutes each.

NCinquiry Finally and perhaps most importantly of all they were invited to reflect upon the similarities, differences and surprises between their own story and the two new versions they had heard.

The overall view was that the stories were fairly similar (not really surprising as this was half way through day two of the conference) but that they differed considerably on perspective ie economics, natural environment and business – focus.

A quick comparison of the ‘first (important) step’ suggested by each of the six groups reveals:

  • Communications, starting at where people are at
  • Identify all critical Natural Capital Assets
  • A miracle!
  • Increasing consumer awareness
  • More pilots to test
  • Communication between Sectors

What do you think? I think this is a good set of first steps to ensure the ‘Natural Capital’ approach proceeds with caution and is adaptable and resilient in the face of uncertainty.

Feedback was hugely positive. Cheat sheets were eagerly taken away.

My reflections afterwards were that:

  1.  The pilot session we (Sarah, director of Surrey WT and Mark CEO of Surrey Connects) had been vitally important to test the instructions, timings and examples of outputs).
  2. I would have preferred a session right at the very start of the conference as an ice-breaker, test the temperature of the ‘crowd’, and chance to reflect on what was important before the first speaker started to influence our thinking.
  3. It is right to sacrifice ego and glory to maximise the participatory nature of such a session. Participation, instead of listening to one person make a point or observation generates engagement, involvement and ultimately personal satisfaction.
  4. Natural Capital is a new and emergent force. A PNI approach to developing where it might go, what it might look like and which systems it may overturn, seems to me to be the perfect match to develop a bottom up, grounded but revolutionary ‘Natural Capital Ecosystem’.

If you are interested, my full report on the session, complete with all the outputs,  every hexagon, is available on the Natural Capital Initiative website. We hope to be doing a lot more in this hugely exciting area in the coming months, so watch this space.

[This post also appears on our new Participatory Narrative Institute Blog over at PNI2.ORG – please have a browse and register on the site if you are at all interested in joining us to see what a difference we can all make, with working with stories]

Composite Materials and Resilience

limehouse

On Friday I spent a very enjoyable night at the Bourne Corn Exchange watching what I believe must be the best tribute band in existence, Limehouse Lizzy.

Now I never switch off at gigs looking for examples of innovation and this night was no exception. Singer Wayne Ellis (in the centre of the picture) is a hugely powerful vocalist and bass player but tonight he had a very bad throat infection. After a couple of songs he looked ready to give up when up stepped guitarist Tim Read, on the left and sang lead vocal through the rest of the set.

I realised three important lessons watching the band with its new dynamic:

  • When the Russian, Altshuler analysed the patent database in the 1960s to come up with his 40 TRIZ inventive principles, number 40 was ‘Composite Materials’ and here it was being illustrated by a guitarist who had the ‘composite’ skills of being able to sing and play guitar at the same time.
  • When a system, such as a band like Limehouse Lizzy needs to be resilient, they have to maintain some surplus capacity ie the ability of band members to sing. If the band had simply recruited guitarists who could play guitar they would have had to have cancelled the gig.
  • When he realised the vocals would be taken care of, Wayne simply smiled and told us gruffly “ I will just sit back and play bass then” which made me realise sometimes that the striker needs to get back and help out in defence.

Postcards from the Edge

Experiment04 Postcards from the Edge

Biggest Anecdote Circle.

anecdoteThis was my naive approach to Anecdote Circles where I believed then that it was more important to get convergence by everyone than to allow everyone the space to engage and make sense together. This was the Cumbria Team in Kendal, when I worked at English Nature and ran a series of 26 separate anecdote circles to explore ‘Customer Service’ by encouraging them to share their anecdotal experiences, capture ‘what they got’ from each story,  then to make sense of the patterns that emerged. 28 participants.

Biggest Cynefin Framework

cynefin bigThis was my facilitation of the wrap up learning at KMUK 2011 in London. A huge cynefin framework used to capture the participants lessons to make sense of whether they were Simple: Complicated : Complex or (at least 2) Chaotic.

Biggest Future Backwards

backwardsMore an outcome of my workshop than a direct output. After I had facilitated the lessons learned review of the recent Bee Campaign for Friends of the Earth they have printed and created this timeline of their achievements in the new social space of their new HQ in London.

The Benefits of Lessons Learned

 

I had one of my regular skype calls with Ron Young and the Knowledge Associates Team on Monday to review and share what we know about ‘Lessons Learned’. We shared our experiences and discussed what would we might advise others.

It dawned on me afterwards that the whole reason for carrying out safe to fail experiments when your situation is uncertain (in the cynefin Complex domain) is not just to find out what works, but to probe the situation, cause an action or reaction of some sort and gain knowledge in the form of the feedback you receive. Hence you have ‘learned a lesson’.

Where you are gaining knowledge in the specific business area that you have chosen to focus your work in, this effectively becomes knowledge that you can apply to your Strategic advantage as your competitors may not have such knowledge.

I love Ron’s story that Ernst & Young had told him, during a collaborative project, that they would often turn down work if it did not involve them gaining new knowledge. So:

“will I gain new knowledge (learn new lessons) from this project?”

should be a key question when assessing a new project, if learning, resilience and sustainability is important to you.

With unbelievable timing and serendipity, I was clearing out my office and came across a couple of my ‘experiments’. I have very rarely used explicit feedback sheets at the end of workshops. At one workshop a few years ago, for a huge international client, I was asked to facilitate a ‘Lessons Learned’ workshop after a big project bid. At the end of the workshop, I handed out, what I called at the time ‘Workshop Satisfaction Sheets’ and as an experiment, to get the client to self-realise the importance of such a workshop, I added a box that asked:

“How much money could the organisation save if all the lessons discussed today were heeded?”

I will let you self-realise the benefits of running such a workshop from the following selection of returns… [click on the image to enlarge]

lessons in a million

 

Time for Future Backwards

With this great new device you can have an anticipatory awareness of the present  that emerges second by second, minute by minute. Not only that but it holds the time accurately enough that you could calculate your longitude should you be travelling east or west.

When the big hand is on the Past and the little hand is on Heaven it is time for lunch. When the big hand is on Heaven and the little hand is on Hell its time to go down the pub.

Hexagons ‘flat side up’ versions are also available.  A deluxe version will include an MP3 player that plays the Beach boys album ‘Today’ closely followed by ‘Living in the past’,  ‘Highway to Hell’ and ‘Stairway to Heaven’.

 

Storytelling for a Greener World

greenerworldHeard the great news today, by way of my invitation to the London launch, that my good friends involved in the Tales to Sustain gatherings I previously attended in 2008 (and again in  2009) are about to publish this wonderful book.

Titled ‘Storytelling for a Greener World’ it covers the what, why and how of storytelling and storywork to promote environmental mindfulness and sustainable behaviour in adults and children. Written by 21 cutting-edge professionals in story-based learning and pro-environmental change.

The book shows how to apply this practice, indoors and outdoors, in organisations,NGOs, schools, colleges and communities.
A treasury of over 40 stories, many creative activities and detailed descriptions of inspiring practice for both new and seasoned practitioners. Clearly explains how this practice works, why it is effective and how to adapt the ideas to the reader’s situation.
Powerfully endorsed by leaders in sustainability, conservation, organisation development, drama and performance, play-work, health, child development, community outreach and education.
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“If we are to be able to move to a more sustainable, more resilient future, we first have to be able to imagine it.We need to be able to tell its stories, weave its magic, bring it alive so we can see, smell, hear, taste and touch it. ‘Storytelling for a Greener World’ does just that, showing the powerful role storytelling can play, and the rich insights the storytellers bring with them.It is rich, powerful and of immense importance.”
                                                         Rob Hopkins, Co-Founder, Transition Network
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This unique resource offers new ideas, stories, creative activities and methods for people working in conservation, outdoor learning, environmental education, youthwork, business training, sustainability, health, social and economic change. It shows how to encourage pro-environmental behaviour in diverse participants: from organisation consultants and employees, to families, youth and schoolchildren. The stories and their exploration engage people with nature in profound ways. The book describes how this engagement enhances participants’ emotional literacy and resilience, builds community, raises awareness of inter-species communication and helps people to create a sustainable future together. Its innovative techniques establish connections between place and sustainability. Facilitators can adapt all of this to their own situation.
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“A scintillating handbook to recover meaning in troubled times.”
                                                 Alastair McIntosh, author of Soil and Soul

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….and if my hero Alastair thinks it is scintillating that’s good enough for me.