An Experimental Approach to Managing Change in Higher Education: A Way Forward?

December 13, 2018

Denise Villikka, Senior Lecturer in Nursing, Arcada UAS, (

Christa Tigerstedt, Senior Lecturer in Business Administration, Arcada UAS, (

On the first Wednesday of November, members of faculty involved in the TOTEEMI project attended a seminar that was hosted by Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences. The main theme of this day was, Kokeile ja kehitä, which when translated to English could mean, Development through Experimentation. There were three presenters during the morning session. Then, in the afternoon, participants divided into small groups according to their choice of theme specific workshops. Afterwards, the seminar concluded by recapping the day’s events. In this blog, we would like to share a few things that were covered during the morning session that were interesting for us because they relate to higher education. [1]

The first speech of the day was given by Birgitta Vuorinen who is serving as a counsellor of education at the Ministry of Education and Culture in Finland. In her speech, Vuorinen seemed to focus on the need in Finnish society for inclusive thinking by pointing out, “it is the careful mix of knowledge, science, education and technology that can benefit society as a whole.” Throughout her speech, she seemed to emphasize the need for increased collaboration (i.e. networking), streamlined in ways that meet the needs of society.

In order for this to be realized, cooperation is needed at all levels of society from the government down to the grassroots level. She continued by saying that this is made possible through the support of legislation and development programs but also requires genuine transparency and flexibility.  For us, this means networking with others in higher education, the business sector and within the private sector. This is something the new funding model seems to stress, which makes developing and nurturing partnerships highly relevant. Therefore, we should continue to find new ways both domestically and internationally where these types of relationships can be developed in ways that align with the national strategic plans and those within our institution.

She then continued by sharing the vision for higher education and research as outlined in their strategic plan, Finland 2030. The main objectives being to, (i) extend careers, (ii) facilitate young people’s transition to further education, and (iii) create flexible learning paths that will facilitate work and studies. Details of this initiative can be found by following the links provided in appendix 1 at the end of this document. [1,2,3]

The next presenter was Kalle Nieminen who is a Senior Expert for Sitra. He spoke on ways through which organizations can bridge the complexity gap by developing through experimentation. He stressed that we need to recognize week signals, create a sense of urgency and make use of the learning potential from our failures. He highlighted the idea of developing a culture of experimentation (Kokeilukulttuuri) In order to nurture these concepts at Arcada we perhaps need to try to answer these questions: (i) Where are we when it comes to having a culture of experimentation? (ii) How can we come closer to a culture of experimentation together with our co-workers and students?

Mr. Nieminen continued his speech by bringing forward the conceptual Cynefin framework that was created by Dave Snowden and Mary Boon in 1999 and how this framework has the ability to supports decision-making within an organization by gaining insight into the behavior of people. Rather than a traditional speech, Nieminen used the padlet application to engage participants. The questions used to guide the discussion were: (i) What will prevent you from experimenting more? (ii) How can you encourage more work in the work community? (iii) What challenges have you encountered in the projects you have been involved with? Responses to these questions and additional material concerning the Cynefin framework can be found in appendix1, at the end of this report. [4,5]

Reflecting on the morning exchanges, the views from guest lecturers and comments from participants pointed toward the need for a more action-oriented approach to research and development initiatives, which could mean a change in the working culture among researchers who in the past have relied on carefully constructed research plans to guide the research process and their associated activities. This being the case, the question could be then to what extent can this change in working culture be realized, and in what timeframe?  Additionally, listening to the presenters it seemed as if they were introducing experimentation in research as a new concept when in fact, this type of method is considered one of the founding qualitative research methods used to understand cause and effect. While the advantages of this approach include versatility, it also requires stringent ethical considerations, which requires time. Therefore, the idea of using experimentation as a means toward increased productivity and efficiency in the scientific community could be an area where further discussion is warranted. [6]

In closing, it was an inspiring day at Haaga Helia. The topics covered seemed to confirm that Toteemi is a relevant project as it emphasizes models and ways of thinking that can be used to bridge cooperation between higher education and working life.  It is evident that these inroads will continue to gain momentum in the future. Therefore, it would seem instrumental for our institution to continue to nurture a culture of experimentation and collaboration that intertwines knowledge, science, education and technology in ways that are aligned with our strategic goals.



  1. Haaga-HeliaWeb-pages. Kokeile ja kehitä -seminaari 7.11. Pasila. URL: Accessed 25.11.2018
  2. Ministry of Education and Culture. (2018) Development of Higher Education. URL: Accessed 24.11.2018
  3. Vuorinen B. Oral Presentation. Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences, Helsinki. 7.11.2108.
  4. Nieminen, K. Oral Presentation. Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences, Helsinki. 7.11.2018.
  5. Snowden, David J., Boone, Mary E. (November 2007).A Leader’s Framework for Decision Making. Harvard Business Review, 69–76.
  6. Hafer, CL., Begue L. ( 2005) Experimental Research on Just-world Theory: Problems, Developments, and Future Challenges. American Psychological Association. JJan;131(1):128-67.


Appendix 1. Net-based Resources from the Seminar

Korkeakoulutus ja tutkimus 2030-luvulle. URL: Accessed 7.11.2018

Ehdotus Suomelle: Suomi 100+. URL: Accessed 7.11.2018

Paddlet. Mikä sinua estää kokeilemasta enemmän? Miten työyhteisössä voitaisiin rohkaista kokeilemaan enemään? URL: Accessed 7.11.2018

Paddlet. Milläisia haasteita 4V prosessin eri vaiheissa olet havainnut niissä hankkeissa, joissa olet ollut mukana?URL: Accessed 7.11.2018

Cynefin Framework. URL: Accessed 24.11.2018