And the journey continues…

“Nothing is permanent but change” — Greek Philosopher Heraclitus

Less than a year ago, our team decided to start describing our journey towards the top of the service research field through this blog. Back then our team had been recently established as a part of organizational change at VTT during spring 2012. The team was built on various types of complementary competences related to digital service research. We were filled with enthusiasm and dedication to make the difference and aim to the top of science world. Although we progressed tremendously during our first year and had excellent scientific and business results, there was yet another organisational change coming, which will end the story of this particular team by the end of this year.

Now don’t get me wrong, even though the story of our team will end, most of our team members will continue the odyssey to the top of service research. More importantly, the new organizational structure will bring many of us to the core of VTT’s Service Research Network, which is a cross-disciplinary intra-organisational network of service researchers at VTT. The network includes a large number of highly talented and recognized service research professionals and its scientific work is steered by one of the world’s most highly-reputed service innovation researchers, Professor Marja Toivonen. As a result, the blog will also be transformed to tell the story of all the members of the VTT’s Service Research Network and their efforts on the journey towards world-class excellence and outstanding achievements in in the field of service research.

Personally I have been highly impressed about the energy and dedication that our team members have had on defining and taking our joint journey towards excellence in service research. I’ve been privileged to be part of the first part of our odyssey, and I’m delighted that as we set sail for the second part of the journey we will have many new and enthusiastic service researchers on board. I still don’t know where our shared odyssey will finally take us, but I’m sure that the pursuit of excellence in service research will take each of us to the right direction no matter where our personal paths will lead us.

On behalf of the whole team, team leader Arto

”Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”

Greek Philosopher Aristotle

Master and Apprentice, or Teacher and Student

The old-fashioned way to become a master of something has been through the “master-and-apprentice” – method. Young and inexperienced workers team-up with more experienced colleaques, and the long process of “do-as-I-show-you” begins. This has been the custom since the Middle Ages, when master craftsmen would train young novices. The same approach still lives in the 21st century, just developed into something called “mentoring”. The term “mentoring” comes  from Homer’s Odyssey:

 ”Odysseus asked Mentor to act as a foster-dad for his son Telemachus,
when Odysseus left for the Trojan War”.

The apprentice is nowadays called actor or mentee. Today’s mentors do not so much tell apprentices to “do-as-I-show-you”, but rather encourage them in exploring their careers to new dimensions, coach and train the actors to see other viewpoints, and most importantly: transfer tacit knowledge. In knowledge intensive organizations, there’s a lot of tacit knowledge hanging around, we just don’t always see it. There is no way to document everything and – even if there was – there would be no one with enough time to read all that. Mentors, with their experience and know-how, can see the relevant aspects of tacit knowledge and transfer that to apprentices. Apprentices, on the other hand, can challenge the “old viewpoint” and develop new, fresh ways to implement tacit knowledge in the company. The feedback from apprentices also provides the mentors possibilities to discover something new.

Here at VTT mentoring is an activity which covers the entire organization, from scientists to customer managers, from financial personnel to team leaders. The official mentoring program at VTT is a year long activity, and has currently some 50 mentor-actor pairs engaged. From our team Pasi in involved as an actor, and is being mentored by Marko Jurvansuu (principal scientist / key account manager) for the customer management – track.

The first comment!

We have now had our blog out there in the open for almost five months. Posting has become a steady part of our team activities. Something has been missing though that we couldn’t quite put our finger on in the beginning – interaction with our readers and more specifically comments! The statistics show that we do have readers, but who are they, we wonder. After five months of enthusiastic waiting for the first comment on our blog, one of our authors encouraged a colleague to break the ice and post one. Yippee!!

The first comment suggested that maybe the lack of comments was due to no other comments which can make it scary to be the first one – kind of a chicken and egg problem really – and that maybe we should start commenting on each other’s posts to get things started. Thank you Pirjo for giving us the inspiration, and congratulations for being the first commentator!

“I don’t believe in that ‘no comment’ business. I always have a comment.”
– Martha Beall Mitchell

After a quick conversation through our Skype channel we decided to start an experiment. We would comment on the posts of other authors ourselves and see whether that will increase the amount of comments also from the readers. Previously this hasn’t even crossed our minds. We have of course been talking about the posts during our team gatherings but have somehow felt that we have no right to comment as we are also the authors. We had thought that commenting ourselves might be kind of pathetic and give an impression of no one else reading the blog. No clue where we got that idea from!

As we are now stepping out of our bubble, let’s see what will happen. Will the number of comments rise or stay the same. We hope that you will get as enthusiastic about this experiment as we are and try out posting a comment. Even just to show that you are there!

Dear reader, welcome to take part in our experiment!

The Others

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Scientists…are they team players or lone wolves? For some reason it’s thought that scientific work is a solo performance, it’s you against the world kind of situation. The Finnish culture doesn’t really ease the situation, Finns aren’t very talkative and information in given on a “need-to-know” basis to others. But you are not alone, in fact, did you know that you do have co-workers? That you are not alone? That there are people in the same situation as you?

Who are these people, and what are they working on?

Have you seen them? Those strange people that are some how affiliated to you at work place. They work near you, walk in the same hallways, use the same lavatories as you, eat in the same cafeteria as you. And last time you checked….they even work in the same team as you! One of them even tried to greet you while passing by in the hallway!

Yeah, they are called co-workers. Why are they called co-workers and why are you guys in the same team….because your work is supposed to go together. You are a Team.

Yes, Team, I like that, but I don’t know anything about their work!

This is quite common in research institutes, probably in all professional service industries as well. Individuals are experts and experts have a weird tendency to get isolated and work alone like hermits. But we are not hermits, we are social animals!

Best results happen when experts come together, and expertise’s get mixed up. And you get know you co-workers as well (it’s polite to greet back you know…)

To make this happen, we have introduced “Substance Quarter”  in our team. Every Friday at 08.30 AM (I know, brutal time, isn’t it 🙂 ) someone from the team will give a 5 minute introduction on some topic he/she is working on currently, or finds interesting. This way we get to know what interests scientists in the team and what are their viewpoints and methods. Remaining 10 minutes are reserved for discussion, questions, drinking coffee, being amazed from the presentation, eating pastries (remember, we work on “pulla, see post by Kaarina).

And this activity is, again, completely voluntarily.

Presentations…again?!

Yes, again. Giving presentations about you work is excellent practice and makes you really think about what you are doing. Especially because you need to be able to mainstream your work for people who are not experts in your particular field.

So if you feel like Sting, like a legal alien (Englishman in New York) in your team, start the substance quarters today!

TeamUpSpace – get yours today!

Do you like team work?

Do you enjoy being around people?

Would you like to get influenced by others?

Do you want to think differently?

Did you say yes? Then what you need is a TeamUpSpace! Yes, that’s right, a TeamUpSpace will make your creativity skyrocket and break innovative ideas free!

Sooo… what is this TeamUpSpace?

TeamUpSpace is a non-reservable space with bright colours, inspiring wall paper and funky furniture. You know, something you WON’T see in a normal meeting room. This is because it isn’t a normal meeting room. The idea is that anyone can come to the TeamUpSpace at any time and work there. The catch is that there are others working there as well, and they can see that you are doing something – and maybe even ask what it is you are doing.WP_000004

Iiik! But they will see my work, then what?!?

Yeeees, that’s the idea, to show others your work and your interests. Who knows, maybe they will have something to say about it, maybe even feedback to give, or maybe, just maybe, they’ll have an INFLUENCE on your work. Imagine that! It actually is good to showcase your work and to see what others are doing as well. There is a good change that you will learn from one another. And that is something that WON’T happen in you private office room, in that chamber of secrets you have. TeamUpSpace is also very handy for ad-hoc meetings, brainstorming, socializing and whatnot.

Hmm, so what ingredients does a TeamUpSpace have?

Anything that makes you feel comfortable and cozy, basically. We have used bright colours and out-of-the-context furniture. We also added some LCD-screens, network cables, power plugs here and there, and so on – to make working and sharing possible. Yes, we use laptops quite a lot around here, so that’s why we have the tech. Also we have added big desks, colorful papers and markers for drawing up things. And to spice things up a bit, we have a nice comfy couch and a couple of fatboys! (The bean bag chairs, not actually two fat boys standing around.)WP_000008

All right, I’m convinced – I want to try it!

That’s the spirit! All you need to do in order to build a TeamUpSpace is to find an empty room, or a room with no meaningful purpose, and convert that to a TeamUpSpace. It would be nice if the room had a center location so that it would be easy for people to accidentally drop it. Better yet – location and room structure should be so that people could see inside the room and peek what’s going on in there when they are walking by to their private offices.

…or if you are visiting VTT premises at Oulu, come and try our TUPS at the E-wing, 2nd floor, room number E226.

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