Once more Learning Layers – Part Four: Drawing conclusions across the pilots in construction and healthcare
With this series of posts I am completing one of the final tasks in our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project – analysing the work in the two sectoral pilots – construction and healthcare – from a comparative perspective. At the end of the work we need to consider, what we have learned from parallel pilots and what conclusions we can draw on the basis of comparative analyses. In this respect I am have presented extracts from a joint draft document on which I am working with my colleagues Tamsin Treasure-Jones and Graham Attwell. With these posts I try to ‘blog into maturity’ the preliminary thoughts we have put into discussion. In the previous posts I presented some starting points and insights into the processes as well as reflections on the parallel pilots. In the final post I outline conclusions across the pilots. (Here, as in all posts, the input on healthcare pilot is provided by Tamsin Treasure-Jones.)
Whilst it has been relatively easy for us to present the stories of the two pilots (even in a comparative setting), it is difficult to draw conclusions across the pilots – and to keep the complex picture of the contexts in one’s mind. Therefore, we are very cautious about presenting cross-cutting conclusions. Below, I have presented two sets of preliminary thoughts (arising from our discussions) to work with:
Paradoxes of co-design work
“The first set of thoughts brings together some of the challenging experiences in both pilots and it can be formulated as ‘paradoxes of co-design work’:
- Co-design processes that focus on very specific user needs defined by particular user group run a risk of developing tools that are less practical than expected (due to technical deficits or since alternative ways have emerged to meet the need).
- Co-design processes that have created a ‘tradition’ of participative events and exchanges may be more effective as interactive learning processes than as laboratories for developing tools (to support learning and knowledge sharing).
- The process of co-design, which can require many iterations for the tools to reach maturity, can lead to real ownership among the ones involved in this work – and readiness to use the tools in practice. Yet there is also a risk that the time constraints and technical inconveniences (when trialing early versions of tools) can also put off busy professionals, so that they resist using the tools. Therefore, engagement may actually be easier, at a later stage, with new groups of users who first encounter the tools when mature.”
(To me these tentative conclusions bring back memories on the German and Swiss projects that accompanied co-design processes in the German innovation program ‘Humanisation of Work’ (HdA) in the 1980s and early 1990s. There, some projects drew attention to similar paradoxes between seemingly successful participation processes with problematic outcomes. Likewise, they drew attention to positive participation processes to develop learning arrangements to promote learning at workplace. It appeared that the process of participation was better ‘learning design’ than what the groups could propose. See on these experiences Frei, Felix, Partizipative Arbeitsgestaltung und Automatisierung : einige Fallstricke. Zeitschrift für Arbeitswissenschaft Jg. 38, Nr. 2 (1984), S. 65-70.)
Paying attention to ‘critical transition zones’ regarding takeup and transfer of innovation
The second set of thoughts is based on the concept ‘critical transition zone’ that I have borrowed from research on marine ecosystems. There the concept refers to the sustainability of flora and fauna in the transition zones of river deltas where sweet water of rivers and seawater of oceans encounter each other – and the plants and and animals have to cope with the transitions. I used this contextual image as an analogy for discussing the concluding phase of co-design and the efforts to roll-out the tools to new pilot contexts and new user groups. Here my preliminary thoughts, how the opportunities and risks in such processes can be interpreted with the help of the concept ‘critical transition zone’:
“Concerning the changing of practices, takeup of the tools and transferring ownership of innovation, the experiences of both sectoral pilots emphasise the importance of ‘critical transition zones’ in the co-design itself (regarding the maturity of tools), in the readiness of change agents (to use the tools), in organisations (to enable wider adoption of tools) and in the responsiveness of professional networks of potential users (to promote further takeup of tools). In this respect, sustainable deployment of tools like the ones of the Learning Layers project require the readiness of both individuals and organisations to complete the transition to use them in the context of practice with its constraints and challenges. If the transition runs the risk to remain incomplete, it may not take off at all. However, if the transition is implemented with a critical mass of users, the all users will benefit of the synergy.”
I guess this is enough of the current phase of our work. We are still struggling with final conclusions but we are getting the picture pulled together.
More blogs to come …