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Inspiration session for the founding of the SevenSenses Action Research Academy, with Ruud Koornstra, Paul Iske, Sabijn Timmers and André Bolland, facilitated by Mieke Boogert

Brainstorm: Action Research Academy also ideal for companies!

Tuesday, August 11th 2015. A group of brilliant minds discovers how to make the SevenSenses Action Research Academy a great succes, for the first edition ánd for the future! Ruud Koornstra (sustainable entrepreneur and founder of Tendris), Sabijn Timmers (Board of Directors, Triodos Bank), André Bolland (founder of The Discovery Company) and Paul Iske (Professor of Innovation and president of the Institue for Brilliant Failures) did a Thinking 720° brainstorm led by Mieke Boogert of Serendipity HubI realize I have to be careful in choosing the word ‘brainstorm’ though, as Paul starts the session with:

“brainstorm is for people without brains, cause they have space for a storm”

Sooo … we… had a… brain exchange? Anyway. The session starts and I’m excited and nervous. How great is it to have these beautiful minds brainst… exchanging about my company SevenSenses?!

Blocks game. But professional.

Mieke puts a big block on the table and starts asking questions you wouldn’t expect. “What’s your favorite place for holiday?” “Mars” says Ruud, likewise unexpectedly. Another block. The four core words of SevenSenses! “And now let’s make associations” says Mieke. Associations between ‘action research’ and ‘lion’ – the animal Sabijn wouldn’t want to meet in the wild. The ‘academy’ and ‘my children’. ‘Impact’ and ‘Mars’. Weird! Later it turns out to be a great tool for out of the box thinking and unexpected ideas! A shuffle. Another block of limitations. Again new ideas. I’m dizzy. Then we become concrete and after the session I walk out of the room, flabbergasted.

Good news for the companies

Main conclusion: there are so many opportunities! Students and post-graduates have experienced the impact of Participatory Action Research (PAR) already in past SevenSenses Challenge editions, but what about the companies? PAR is a tool that can be applied in any setting, in any situation and could have great impact at so many different levels! PAR is so flexible that as soon as you get acquinted with it, you can apply it to anything on your path that could improve the happiness, quality, effectiveness and impact of your entire (work) community. From complete company reorganizations to the choice of the color of the new toilet seats.

Clumsy name?

That it works brilliantly for companies was no news. “But how come we hardly hear companies about this if it is so impactful?”, we wondered. Is it the name? Action may refer too much (as in: wrongly) to activism, and research may refer to too much to academic, non-practical performance. Ok, ok. I agree, the inventor of Action Research wasn’t the smoothest hype-name inventor (unless it was a hype name back in the forties). The good thing is, over time PAR has proven to fit in all kinds of different circumstances, so it can be applied in any way!

PAR has nothing to do with activism, and you can make it as small or big as you want, scientific or practical.

Bringing in great new insights from a ‘different world’

“Imagine the added value of the new knowledge and skills employees can bring in when they join the Action Research Academy!”

says André Bolland, founder of the Discovery Company. First of all, in two weeks, they can be the PAR expert of the company, improving all that could use a boost. Not only for a current issue, but all issues that may come in the future. Second, when joining the Long Track of the Academy, they can put PAR into practice in a different country and guide a Challenge team on the subject, as part of corporate social responsibility (in Dutch: maatschappelijk verantwoord ondernemen, MVO). Practical, intercultural experience from a totally different setting and using that -on top of the PAR skills-  for boosting in the company in it’s broadest sense.

Why not make PAR your core business?

As part of MVO… O dear. Ruud Koornstra, sustainable entrepreneur, seems to be a bit allergic.

“this should not be ‘just’ MVO, PAR should become their core business!!”

Indeed… Why not make profit of the great impact you deliver to the world? Well, was our conclusion, let’s start with MVO, let them deliver that great impact and see how that impact can be incorporated in the core business. “Dammit, dare to dream big!” so says Ruud.

And that was just the tip of the iceberg. I could write a book about all the other generated ideas.

As a lion I will grit my teeth and go as far as Mars to reach my goal.

Thank you Ruud, Sabijn, Paul, André, Evert Jan and Mieke for all your useful input!