The puzzle is laid out…

The COHU participants met for the second time at the Radisson Blu Royal in Kamppi, Helsinki on 5 April. In this second dialogue, we wanted to dig deeper and look for a joint denominator in the problems the companies were facing. We got rid of tables, sat close to one another in a circle and let our ideas fly.

In the warm-up discussion, we asked about the participants’ impressions of the first meeting. The general feeling was that the two parties started really far from each other and that in many cases, the companies’ problems would not require research collaboration – the answers were readily available in many research teams and the main question was finding the right people. This was just as expected: the whole point of the COHU exercise is to find the best way to get people from very different backgrounds to talk with each other in a meaningful way.

Next, we regrouped into two teams with roughly similar issues to discuss. All of the problems raised had multiple aspects and many of them were really “wicked”, requiring a multidisciplinary approach to be solved. It was clear that the companies were facing similar problems but each expressed them in
their own way and from their own point of view.

The researchers raised clarifying questions and new, sometimes surprising viewpoints, and were often able to point out larger issues at hand from which the various practical problems rose. The business people welcomed this and admitted that sometimes, when there simply isn’t enough time to think of the real issues behind the problem, companies may resort to quick-fixes that then give rise to new problems that again require solving. It was interesting to see how the discussions got deeper and the business people started going over one another’s questions as well instead of concentrating only on their own ones.

Little by little, we got closer to a joint understanding of the critical issues. We ended up with a set of key questions that need to be solved before a long-term solution for the companies’ problems can be found. The discussion time was over far to quickly, and we moved to a delicious buffet lunch to continue getting to know one another better.

In the following workshops we will move closer to solutions. In problem solving, the key issue is to understand what it is that we are actually talking about. Different viewpoints and clarity about concepts are necessary to open the knot. The companies expect tangible answers but research doesn’t always provide simple recipes. Instead, we find new points of entry and start seeing the wood from the trees. From this, we can get to solutions that are more than quick fixes – long-term and innovative.

Antti Hautamäki

Tanja Suni