InnovationWell relaunches

New Knowledge Café to ask powerful questions about safety assessment

And the US roadshow begins!

On May 7-11, Douglas Connect relaunches its own InnovationWell Knowledge Cafés, with three events. Data-driven Innovation in Environment and Human Healthcare is the theme of the event at Bryn Mawr College, Philadelphia, May 7. Environmental Health and Protection Modelling is the theme at Frontier Park in Durham, North Carolina, May 9. Towards Evidence-based Care for Human Health and the Environment is the theme of the final event at Cambridge Innovation Center in Boston, May 11.

Dr. Barry Hardy explains that the three locations were chosen because they are hubs of some of the most exciting research going on in the US in life sciences and risk assessment. “There’s also a bit of nostalgia,” he adds. “Bryn Mawr was the site of Douglas Connect’s first InnovationWell Knowledge Cafés 10 years ago, which contributed a valuable foundation to our subsequent developments.”

The three events are designed to draw scientists from industry, academia and government agencies and the general public to the same table. “We hope this ‘roadshow’ will be the first of many InnovationWell events, both in the USA and elsewhere, focusing on all kinds of powerful questions,” Dr. Hardy says.

The genesis of the Knowledge Café

“What is your powerful question, the question you really wonder about in your work, but cannot yet answer? That’s what I would ask the people coming to a Knowledge Café like those held by InnovationWell,” says Dr. Charles M. Savage. 

Dr. Charles SavageDr. Savage is one of the founders of the Knowledge Café concept, whereby people are brought together in small groups to pool knowledge informally through conversation. “The typical conference format features speakers, usually showing how much they know,” he says. “A Knowledge Café lets people talk about what they don’t know and where they need help. By asking your powerful question aloud, you set a broader agenda.”

Knowledge Cafés are so well recognized today that it is easy to forget that this was not always so. Charles M. Savage was one of the first to understand their value. “In the 1970s and ‘80s, I did a lot of studies of group dynamics and it was clear that statements put people to sleep, while questions energize. When I finished my book, Fifth Generation Management*, and published it in 1990, I wanted to bring people together around it, but I didn’t want to lecture. Instead, in October 1990, I brought together 12 people, and without fully knowing why, I divided them up randomly around tables of four and asked some questions.   After perhaps 20 minutes, I moved them between tables and, afterward, we shared our insights. Hence, was born Dynamic Teaming - which is what I called the process at the time.”

Global data, human connections

Perhaps it seems ironic that the CEO of Douglas Connect, developers of software for specialized data management and leaders of such global consortia and associations as OpenTox and OpenRiskNet, should agree with Dr. Savage that nothing quite beats informal conversation. “Despite all of our modern technology, there is still nothing more powerful than people sitting down together and talking,” says Dr. Hardy. “Douglas Connect builds solutions for the sharing of data - because science and industry need global solutions - but we never forget how important it is to connect people through face-to-face conversation. I consider Charles Savage my mentor in creating an atmosphere that is conducive to collaboration and the sharing of expertise and best practices, to matching problems with people who can bring solutions. Ten scientists working together bring a broader set of perspectives that can lead to more sustainable, thoughtful solutions.”

*Fifth Generation Management was named best business book of 1991 by management guru Tom Peters. As President of Knowledge Era Enterprising, Dr. Savage helps companies improve their knowledge strategy, organizational culture, market responsiveness and customer focus.

About Douglas Connect

Douglas Connect manages collaborative projects to achieve goals in scientific research, infrastructure development or service provision. Effective collaboration requires many elements including coordination, culture, communications, common understanding, decision-making and interoperability.

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