What is it that you folk actually do?

People doing things together at work can be called an activity system (eg sheep farming and exporting, manufacturing and selling chairs, or educating children in school). We have learned how to intervene in an activity system so that people can improve their work by design (eg be more innovative, effective, productive).

Exactly what sort of research do you do?

Action research is close, but we have gone further into what is known as Developmental Research. In plain language, we don’t do massive surveys, with questionnaires or phone calls. Our focus is understanding the shared ‘meanings’ people make at work so that they do their job. We try to understand people at work, their systems and processes so they can break through sticky or intractable problems and fix them. We do our work with the active (physical and intellectual) engagement of the people who do the work.

If you were doing that in our business what would we see?

You would see us:

o        Getting to know what people think the business is (we watch, listen, read, talk with you)

o        Getting you or some of you to make a map of the current activity system (3-4 workshops of 2-3 hours with up to 20 people)

o        Working through what we call the disturbances and contradictions that you identify in your current system (1-2 more workshops)

o        Assisting everyone in the room to co-design a new whole system that not only does the work better but results in permanently altered motivation, behaviour, alignment and efficiencies (1-3 more workshops).

How much do you charge?

We have a daily or hourly rate for senior researchers/consultants and lower rates for researchers and administrative services. Charges are negotiated for each project. Commercial rates are approximately $1200 per day (+GST). For CRIs (FRST projects) approximately $1000 per day (+GST) and for schools, approximately $100 (+GST) per hour.

What’s your point of difference?

We don’t say we have an answer to your business problems before – or after – we get to know your business. But we know how to give you the knowledge, skills and tools to solve those persistent, intractable systems issues that a quick fix inevitably fails to solve. We are in the business of giving you what we know.

What are your key concepts?

o        Cultural Historical Activity Theory (CHAT) – a way of thinking about learning.

o        Activity – the smallest meaningful unit of analysis to use when you are trying to understand people at work, their systems and processes.

o        Developmental Work Research (DWR) – using CHAT as a tool to improve workplaces and the business.

o        Cultural Imprints – deeply held attitudes and values about how New Zealanders see work and their place in it.

o        Systems Thinking – a useful approach and set of tools for doing practical things when the world is too complicated to understand or control.

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