Owner-managers and business intermediaries work together for better cooperation

On September 11th and 12th, VIA University College hosted a co-creative workshop with participants from Poland, Lithuania, Finland and Denmark. The purpose of the workshop was to make better cooperation between business intermediaries and owner-managers. 

There is a small buzzing in the room. Around the four tables, sits owner-managers, intermediaries and higher educational institutions side by side. First they will be sitting at national tables and later on they will be regrouped with participants from the other countries. They are gathered in Herning, Denmark to discuss the specifications and characteristics of a new counselling process and an online toolbox for cooperation between intermediaries and SME owner-managers.

Each of the participants has experiences with the other professions in the room and everyone is eager to share their point of view. During the two days, the participants will be going from a personal-point-of-view to a we-point-of-view to a collective mind using Cooperative Innovation (CO-IN).

The room is quiet; everyone are focused on scribbling down their thoughts on a question they have just received in an envelope. After this step they are going to write down five keywords which they will be discussing with the person sitting next to them. 

“The CO-IN model guides the participants through 10 steps that make them see a problem from different perspectives by using different approaches, such as written assignments, visualization and storytelling before offering specific suggestions to the solution,” says Anders Mølbæk, workshop leader.   

Visualization and storytelling - see the problem from a new point of view

The participants have argued enthusiastically while four students from VIA Design have visualized the thoughts and ideas in drawings. One of the tables are looking through stacks of pictures to find the ones that best illustrate the keywords they have picked, while an illustrator draws the ones they have already chosen.  

At another table, the group explains their keywords while the illustrator finds images on her computer, that they can agree on shows what they mean, before she starts sketching on the board. 
For an hour and a half, the room is busy with participants discussing with each other, explaining the illustrators what to draw, and finally presenting their posters to each other.

The first day is almost over and the following day the participants will be using the input from today to prepare a specification draft for the counselling toolbox. 

The specific suggestions comes to the table

Wednesday morning the participants find their seats at the international tables they sat at the day before. Today they will come up with specific suggestions for the shape of the toolbox. The conversations start flowing, some tables start writing post-it notes, instantly covering the specification template, others take their time and spend a few minutes talking over the template before starting to put post-its on it.

After lunch, all groups have finished their suggestions for the toolbox and start to present them to each other. Malgorzata Popis from Free Entrepreneurship Association, regional department Gdansk says: “Through the workshop, I have experienced that the experiences are more or less similar for all of the participating countries”. Wille Viittanen, owner of Wiitta – We Love Plastics, Finland agrees and says: “I have learned from the other nationalities in the Baltic Sea Region, that the issues we are facing are more or less the same in the business life.”

The workshop ends with everyone participating in a joint discussion. “The workshop has given us many qualified inputs and insights for the further development of the toolbox. We have learned that the struggles for both intermediaries and owner-managers are very similar across the borders and that there is a need for a tool that improves the communication and cooperation between intermediaries and owner-managers” says workshop leader, Anders Mølbæk. 

The SNOwMan project aims to improve the cooperation between business intermediaries and owner-managers of SMEs. To do so the project will develop a new counselling toolbox that apply to the owner-managers’ demands. 
The project is funded by Interreg Baltic Sea Region and the Regional Development Fund.

CO-IN model (Cooperative Innovation model)

CO-IN is a didactic model enhancing and scaffolding processes of cooperation creating innovation drawing on a Scandinavian tradition. It is based on a cross-sectorial and multidisciplinary approach. With dialogue and the use of multi modal techniques as essential tools for conceptualizations gives a better clarification of the complexity and diversity leading to decision making based on knowledge as common. 

The model is developed by Suzanne Yaganeh, Janni Nielsen and Leif Bloch Rasmussen from Copenhagen Business School. Read more.

For more information about the workshop contact:

Anders Mølbæk

Watch video from the Co-creative workshop

Woman drawing on a whiteboard

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