Understanding people for fun and profit

Finnish companies could see more success if they used more research-based information on human behaviour in their product and service development. The KINO project is looking for new tools to share research information like this.

The University of Helsinki’s Research Services, Helsinki Innovation Services and Åbo Akademi University’s joint KINO project aims to discover new tools for researchers in the humanities and social sciences to bring their research results to companies and society at large. The project focuses on two things: academic consultancy and the creation of new tools to communicate research impact.  

The final seminar of the project in November 2016 featured three interesting visiting speakers: PhD Christoph Köller (Görgen & Köller GmbH, Germany), who is a member of the steering group of the KINO project, explained how the project relates to other similar efforts in Europe. PhD Amanda Zeffman (Cambridge Enterprises) and Professor Giovanni Schiuma (UNIBAS, IT) provided new perspectives on the two core issues of the project. Academic consultation was also the topic of a panel discussion which featured participants from companies and Tekes in addition to researchers.

Rules for consultation

Academic consultation is a natural way to make research information available to society. It is also supremely well suited for researchers in the humanities and social sciences.

The KINO project examined consulting practices at different universities and interviewed researchers on their wishes and needs regarding academic consultation.

Based on these interviews, both researchers and universities have a need to agree on common rules for academic consultation. Most of the researchers who were interviewed would appreciate help from the University in the management of the consultation process.

Two options from Cambridge

The University of Cambridge has created its own model for academic consultation. Researchers and undergraduates can consult either privately or through the University’s consulting services. If a researcher wishes to consult privately, he or she cannot use the university’s name or email. He or she must also agree on any necessary insurance separately.

If the researcher works through the university’s consultation services, he or she will receive help in drafting an agreement as well as legal support. He or she can use the university’s name and graphic design as well as its facilities and other services. In such cases, the consultation fee is divided between the researcher and the university.

“The researcher may choose to donate the fee to the university for use on, for example, seminar trips or other costs it would not be able to afford otherwise,” explains Amanda Zeffman from Cambridge Enterprise Limited.

Tools for researchers

The KINO project has also developed tools for research impact and commercialisation based on art. The work has been a cooperation between artist Laura Mellanen and PhD Anne Pässilä and Anne Kallio from the Lappeenranta University of Technology’s spin-off company Susinto.

One of the topics examined in the various interactive workshops was whether researchers should focus on solving challenging problems instead of debating the commercialisation of an individual product or service. It is important to understand the value of information from different perspectives and needs. What kind of information is important for a CEO or a politician and why?

The result of these discussions and workshops was a tool called Resonance Story.

Changing environment for companies

Professor of Innovation Management Giovanni Schiuma described in his speech how the environment in which companies operate is becoming increasingly chaotic and unpredictable. We’re moving towards an experiential economy , which emphasises resilience, creativity and co-creation.

“In the new business age, there are new value drivers that are emerging. These are the value drivers that help us understand why arts and humanities really matter in business and will be more and more important,” says Giovanni Schiuma.

According to Schiuma, such value drivers will be experience, emotions, energy, ethics, environment and engagement.

Misunderstandings plague the world

In his speech at the closing seminar, Professor Arto Mustajoki discussed the difficulties humans experience understanding one another. The problem exists everywhere, in politics, at home and in companies.

“Companies might be able to improve their result by five per cent, if they could reduce the amount of misunderstandings by ten per cent,” Arto Mustajoki states.

We can only imagine what such a reduction in misunderstandings could do for world peace – or our lives at home for that matter.

The KINO project has received extended funding from Tekes, and it will continue in cooperation with the University of Eastern Finland and the University of Tampere. The intention is to use the extended funding to develop the Resonance Story tool as well as the practices for academic consultation.

The final seminar of the KINO project was videoed in its entirety
Part 1: https://youtu.be/W6Abmuij4wk
Part 2: https://youtu.be/lB3BuaIdYKE

Link to the Tekes page for the KINO project (in Finnish)