The importance of being earnest – about concepts and expectations


Enter with an open mind. That is a key principle we started with when we asked researchers and business people to take part in a co-creation project. We’re glad to report that half-way through the dialogue process this principle of open minds is alive and well.

Still, we recognize that at the start of each new process we come with our expectations. Half-way through the dialogue process it is fitting to go back and view our own expectations. But aren’t expectations then in conflict with the principle of open minds? No, as long as we don’t ignore their existence and deal with them properly. We base our expectations on some type of evidence, in this case quite a bit of academic literature and multi-disciplinary experience.

Why is this relevant for an innovation-seeking development project like COHU? We work with a dialogue-based model, where the participants identify shared problems and pool their different types of knowledge to find solutions. All the expectations come together as soon as we begin a dialogue. This requires trust and an inquisitive mindset, but also a strong self-knowledge. This includes being able to identify expectations.

In the COHU process we, the COHU team, had expectations about the role of concepts. They lie at the heart of the scientific world. Managing a multitude of concepts within the open-minded process played a major role in the planning of the dialogue process. Yet, we knew that conceptual talk is often claimed to be a barrier for discussions between researchers and other societal groups. Avoiding conceptual talk is mentioned as a thing to avoid in several science communication guides.

Now, with half of the dialogues behind us, we find ourselves happily surprised by none other than concepts. Not as a no-no but instead as something that binds the participants together. Being clear about the meanings of terms or phrases encourages challenging of others, while giving an opportunity to take a deeper look at the tacit processes of professions. Defining what exactly the topic to discuss or problem to solve is there is much talk about the importance of concepts. Emphasising the need to be clear about what the issue, the underlying meanings and probably consequences seems to function as a glue.

At the half-way mark it is pleasing to see what an open dialogue can do to shake our systems of thought. Expectations still exist, but so far it seems they are rising by each dialogue, for good reason.

Kirsi Pulkkinen