This post will reflect on the lessons learnt across the three weeks, or at least, the lessons that I got out. In case you like to share your key outtakes, please do send them to me (andreas.meissner that is) by mail.   

#The collaborative sessions were constructive and inspiring, and more of such interactions were seen to be desirable.

Across the three weeks roughly a hundred of INLer came together, and in a very constructive and inspiring manner. This provided the opportunity to interact around the various organizational issues, and in an a very open manner.

And analogue to the survey responses itself, there seemed to be a common view that more of such interactions would be beneficial so to support learning, knowledge exchange, collaboration, networking, and the alike.

This is encouraging in itself, and thus perhaps should be followed by looking at possible formats, and also understanding the right time balance.

With this, we also like to take the chance and to thank all who stepped forward and supported us in the preparation and running of the sessions, starting from Paulo (Vaz) and our two Cristina (Louro and Padilha), our colleagues at ICS and the conference office on getting things organized, over Mariam, Margaret and Adelino in the session support, up to all of the ad-hoc contributions received. This was very much appreciated!!!

# We are already a learning organization, and yet we are not.

This was something not that obvious to me, but on reflection that made a lot of sense. INL is a RTO and thus learning is inherent in all of the research that we do. And from the various talks that I had over the weeks across INL I had to realize that there seems to be a such a perception and confusion why there is out of the sudden all of the talk about learning. And as a matter of fact, such views certainly hold valid to some degree, and notably once it comes to your respective scientific fields. But perhaps they hold less valid once it comes to any other type of learning beyond your scientific field. Once it comes to your professional development almost all education and training offers that you are going to find at the market, besides doctoral programs, will make use of largely descriptive learning materials, of backward-looking case studies, of sandbox level problem or project-based learning activities, and that will let you synthesise in the abstract. That’s the best what you get. Like it, or not. With the only real alternative being self-learning, for which however you might be ill prepared as discussed here.

And from that perspective it seems to be important to better understand how we do things within the respective scientific fields and in the general work environment, and how this might be transferred to other areas. Be it learning, the way of work, the types of reasoning, etc.


# You have highly valued skills, yet they are not always highly valued.

Sure, the value of your skills will depend on the context. Knowing to swim won’t perhaps be that much valued in a desert. But it was unexpected to learn that “people from other disciplines don’t really come to ask for your opinion”, or that “it is not often that outside of my scientific work people would want to call on my analytical and critical thinking skills”.

Such responses suggest that we miss out on opportunities. And therefore, we perhaps want to check on how we could create more opportunities for leveraging on what we have at hand.

# There is a preference to not use the word problems.

Once seeing the first PhD Movie from Jorge Cham I laughed quite a bit at the scene where the Professor tells the PhD student that in academia we never use the word problems, but issues (see here min 1.35). However, if we look at research problems then this should not be a banned, but an appreciated word. I might have an issue with a situation, but without clearly examining and understanding the underlying problems it would be quite difficult to resolve this situation.

And from that perspective problems from within your day to day work environment should be brought out clear, and we should have a culture that appreciates problem identification, analysis and – as much as possible resolution. And keeping a problem focus also helps to avoid the blame game, and for different views to converge, or also to agree to disagree.

# There are perceived barriers and underlying problems, and they seem to be wicked.

If you have not come across wicked problems, then let me briefly explain: a wicked problem is a problem that has no ultimate solution. It’s not even a problem to all. And working with linear cause and effect logic alone won’t be sufficient to tackle wicked problems. Wicked problems thus pose some serious challenges to novice and experienced researcher alike. And any type of organization is the perfect spot for wicked problems to hide.

And looking at the outcomes of this survey, much of the perceived barriers (as detailed in this post and as illustrated in this map) and underlying problems appeared to be wicked. Thus, a better collectively understanding on the different types of perceived problems seems to be a good starting point so to constructively approach such wicked situations, so to build up consensus on how to work such situations out. The details on how or if we want to do this will then be on us to decide.

# There is a set of Core Competencies that we need to agree on and work out

It came out quite clear during the sessions that there is a set of core competencies that has been named consistently through the three sessions. Perhaps not surprisingly, the competencies that came out more often are those that could be expected for RTOs like INL, namely: Analytical and Critical Thinking, Creative thinking, Problem solving. But there were further ones that were named quite consistent through the sessions, such as Leaderful Practice & Influence (or the lack thereof) and the implications that this has on how we are working with others.

As we now have mapped out many of the valued skills and tools that currently support us in our work environment, we might want to take the chance and go one step further so to clearly articulate what are the type of Core Competencies that we should be assuring are in place. And we might want to do this in continuation of such type of collaborative efforts.