— Cultural Sources of Newness

Tag "not knowing"

Flying unprepared to an international conference to which one has been invited as a keynote speaker can be considered arrogant and/or unprofessional. I hope I am neither, but this is what I decided to do last week for the 3rd Participatory Innovation Conference in Lahti, Finland . I had not taken the decision alone: the idea was born out of a conversation with Finnish artist Nanna Hänninen , who had been invited to contribute an artistic response to a selection of papers that had been submitted to the conference. During the conversation we had in my office at the WZB in May about artistic interventions in organizations, we decided to propose to the conference organizers to transform our separate roles into a joint contribution that would combine academic and artistic perspectives. Co-chair Helinä Melkas welcomed our unusual and risky suggestion, which she felt fit well with the theme and nature of the conference: innovation and participation as performance. And I felt that the idea fit well with one of the key findings of my research on artistic interventions in organizations, namely that one of the most valuable contributions that artists bring into organizations is the capacity to engage not-knowing. The conference offered an opportunity for me to shift from writing about the concept to actually trying to do it in partnership with an artist.

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I particularly enjoy sharing my research findings in contexts that allow me to learn as well. Last week held two very different opportunities for this:  On Tuesday I spoke at an evening curated by Maria Ptqk  at SAVVY Contemporary  in Berlin, and on Thursday-Friday I was in Hamburg at the annual plenary of the Working Group for Arts Sponsorship of the Kulturkreis der deutschen Wirtschaft (Association of Arts and Culture of the German Economy at the Federation of German Industries). In both cases I had been invited to talk about artistic interventions in organizations, but the participants could not have been more different: in Berlin I was surrounded by artists, in Hamburg by managers. Bridging between their worlds with my research about how they can learn from each other required preparing two quite distinct presentations (drawing on the findings for our Creative Clash project report and my case studies on artistic interventions in France, Germany and Spain). Then I was ready to listen and learn.

Mia Mäkela presenting Green Matters at SAVVY Contemporary April 23 2013

Mia Mäkelä presenting Green Matters at SAVVY Contemporary April 23 2013

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Imagine my delight when I learned from Fred Girod this week that this year’s theme at the Institute for Advanced Study Konstanz (Kulturwissenschaftliches Kolleg) is “Nichtwissen”! I have been addressing issues of “not-knowing” and “unknowing” in my research on organizational learning and artistic interventions in organizations, as well as in my teaching of cross-cultural management for several years, but this is the first time I have encountered a community of scholars interested in the topic. This is one of the kind of discoveries and stimuli for new learning that a Kolleg is meant to enable. 

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