A method for developing work practices by the practitioners. Basing on the cultural-historical activity theory conceptions of the dual or double stimulation method (L. Vygotsky) and expansive learning (Y. Engeström) it facilitates both intensive, deep transformations and continuous incremental improvement. The method is developed and registered by the Center of Activity Theory and Developmental Work Research, University of Helsinki. The idea is to arrange on the shopfloor a space in which there is a rich set of instruments for analyzing disturbances and for constructing new models for the work practice. Change Laboratory is used by a team or work unit or by collaborating partners across the organizational boundaries, initially with the help of an interventionist-researcher. In the KP-Lab, the potential of the digital tools and spaces in the Change Laboratory context are explored, designed and experimented.

The Change Laboratory brings work redesign closer to the daily shopfloor practice while still keeping it analytical. This brings forth a new dialectic of close embeddedness in and reflective distance from work. It brings together practice-driven redesign processes and idea-driven construction of visions for the future, which means a new dialectic of specified improvements and comprehensive visions. It brings together multiple parallel rhythms of development in work – a new dialectic of long, medium and short cycles of innovation and change. Also, it brings together the tools of daily work and the tools of analysis and design – a new dialectic of instrumentalities.

The central tool is the 3x3 set of surfaces for representing the work activity: In the time dimension of the past, present and future, there are 1) mirror surface that shows the work practices and challenging examples of problems and disturbances at work; 2) a model surface displaying the entire activity system that is used to make sense of the built-in contradictions generating the troubles and disturbances depicted in the mirror, and to construct a vision of the past and the future of the activity system; 3) ideas and tools surface in the middle of the mirror and models for the potential capabilities and emerging formations for reorganizing the activity. Workers face the surfaces aided by a scribe appointed from among them, by video equipment and additional tools such as databases and a reference library.

References

Ahonen, H., Engeström, Y. & Virkkunen, J. (2000). Knowledge Management – The second generation: Creating competencies within and between work communities in the Competence Laboratory. In Y. Malhotra, (ed.) Knowledge Management and Virtual Organizations. London: Idea Group Publishing, 282-305.

Ahonen, H. & Virkkunen, J. (2003). Shared Challenge for Learning: Dialogue Between Management and Front-line Workers in Knowledge Management. International Journal of Information Technology and Management, 2(1/2), 59–84.

Engeström, Y., Virkkunen, J., Helle, M., Pihlaja, J. & Poikela, R. (1996). The Change laboratory as a tool for transforming work. Lifelong Learning in Europe, 1(2), 10-17.


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