Learning by doing

The best way to learn a new skill or a new way of working is to actually do it. This does not mean however that you have to start from scratch and figure everything out by yourself. Collaborative experimentation and dedicated coaching can offer a valuable scaffold to experiment, learn and improve.

Enterprising professionals in any organisation are likely to take up ambitious projects and tasks that are relatively new to them. They are already mature experts in their particular line of work, but may have come across a new approach or method, and want to try this out. They are confident that they can eventually pull it off, but also aware of missing the foundation that previous experience and foundational knowledge provides.

An obvious and useful solution is to hook up with a collaborator who can offer guidance through reflective conversations that help deliberate potential courses of actions and taking considered decisions. If such a person is not available in the organisation, it makes sense to look outside of the organisation for a mentor or coach who can offer such guidance during the course of the project.

Over the past years we have built up a lot of experience with coaching such enterprising professionals on service innovation projects with their aim to use more design research methods. And we very much enjoy doing this. We are glad to see so many in-house professionals picking up new ways of approaching early stage exploration and strategic discovery. We see it as a positive sign of market maturity that not all such projects are fully outsourced to agencies like us, but that also in-house teams feel confident to take them up.

Initially our coaching was part of the training programs we for instance delivered together with the Amsterdam Business School at the University of Amsterdam. As part of the executive course Design Driven Business Innovation we have guided about 80 professionals working on innovation projects for their respective organisations. Their projects spanned many different sectors, such as Healthcare, Transport, Media, Finance, Government, Utilities, IT, Fashion, Food, Education, Retail, and Publishing. 

Since a while we are also offering this type of coaching directly to professionals and organisations. Recent coaching involvements have been with two international  IT startups, a financial institution, and a governmental advisory body. For some we arranged ad hoc coaching sessions, whenever their project asked for it. For others we set up coaching calls for a fixed time each week. The rhythm of the coaching is always a bespoke arrangement depending on what the person and the project needs.

Other coaching activities by STBY have been part of a wider learning and development programs. One of these programs is Open DOTT, a EU funded research program on the Internet of Trusted Things, where we delivered design research training and coaching to 5 academic research fellows. And as part of the national innovation program IDOLS*, funded by the Dutch government, we coached 2 out of the 10 projects that focused on tackling wicked societal challenges.

Combining training and coaching is also one of the key principles of This is Doing, the online learning platform of which STBY is one of the founding partners. Learning does not only happen through absorbing theory from courses and webinars, but by applying what you are learning in an actual project. You then encounter more precise questions and choices. Navigating these in practice will make them stick much more stronger. And, you’ll actually get a tangible result from your learning process. A win-win situation!

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