June 3rd 2004
Learning Lab Denmark
Science Fiction Speculations on a meeting
A space ship glides through an interstellar cluster heading for an asteroid belt. Navigating through such dense rocks and planetary fragments will be almost impossible. At the heart of the ship is its navigation system: a dance floor upon which a man, dressed in a dinner suit covered in sensors, waltzes to perfection with a woman, dressed in a beautiful ball gown, also bedecked with sensors. A thousand cameras are also trained upon their almost perfect dance; the images and movements translated, transposed by the computer into the expertise needed to pilot the ship safely through the million pieces of rock.
In a factory, a machine operator is about to set to work on his water-jet cutting machine. He inserts his hand into a black rubber glove which is covered in two hundred and twelve sensing devices. He takes hold of an equally sensor-covered kitchen knife and proceeds to cut a piece of cheese upon which fifteen cameras are trained. His expert movements, gained from over twenty years of experience, are processed by the computer visioning and sensing software and hardware and translated into the almost perfect cut of a large sheet of metal. Better quality performance is achieved than any comparable automated or robotic technology. The operator’s expertise at cutting cheese is transposed into metal cutting competence.
A COLLAB is set up by Learning Lab Denmark – a collaborative project between researchers and an industrial corporation. Tangible improvements in performance are measured in a classic before-after experiment where a team of people take part in a drumming workshop. They develop more effective rapport, communication and confidence which is transposed into better shop-floor performance. The improvement is clearly there but the specific transposed elements – these the researchers struggle to identify.
A new field of study is opening up. Little do the researchers know that they are beginning to pave the way for future inter-stellar space travel!
A new theory of work and organisation? A genuine paradigm shift? New forms of work that do not arise out of the old but genuinely replace them? Are all of our “creativity tools”, our artistic interventions, our transformations, nothing more than applying air freshener or shoring up the foundations of a building that needs to be leveled once and for all in order to build something new?
Can we overcome the feeling that “revolution” is just an embarrassing cliche. Perhaps a revolution is genuinely and authentically needed. New ways of working.
Or perhaps a partnership of old and new. We could admit: we have solved the problem of production: the automatable, partly automated hierarchical input-output transformation system. But the innovation system - the creativity process - that requires an entirely new way of thinking, not built upon the creaking foundations of the old.