SOLWorld conference 2009 review

Just back from the SOLWorld 2009 conference on the holiday island of Texel, the Netherlands.  We had a record 171 participants this year in this, the eighth international conference about SF practice in organisations.  Even better, they came from 20 countries, including a 10-strong Japanese contingent.  The organising team led by Bert Garssen did a great job, and were not helped by the wet and windy weather which blew through from time to time.   You can read the conference programme etc at

We had a great plenary session led by Louis Cauffman from Belgium on the second day, featuring four cases of SF applications in real organisational and business settings.  These included Martin van Gogh talking about using SF to increase profitability at his industrial automation company, Doris Regele developing a new mission statement with an agriculture organisation in Austria, Monika Houck on her work as a leader with Lufthansa Systems in Budapest and finally creating a new future for the Pactum youth care organisation.  A fantastic range of organisations, all using SF ideas to move ahead quickly and effectively.

There were a total of 32 workshops in all (taken from 68 applications – another record!).  As usual it was a very hard choice. I enjoyed Hans-Peter Korn and Josef Scherer’s mini-experience of Agile Project Managment, theory and practice brilliantly intertwined.  Prof David Weber (Univ of N Carolina Wilmington, USA) gave a very interesting session about applying ethnographic methods in finding out about an organisation at the start of an SF consulting assignment – I liked his distinction between ‘old ethnography’ (very expert, the scientist knows more than the observed people) and ‘new ethnography’ (non-expert, the idea is to discover, cautiously, and check out findings about how the culture works).  My own workshop with Kirsten Dierolf about ‘how to introduce yourself and SF to people from other traditions’ went by in a blur – we had people thinking about different ways to introduce and explain what we do, and even drew on a clip from the ancient TV show Catweazle in the process.

Anton Stellamans and Liselotte Baeijaert produced a really excellent session on Resilience – Anton’s ‘brief history of not knowing’ provided some splendid intellectual backbone, complementing Liselotte’s wonderful opening meditation.  Another highlight was Miyuke Tobe’s session about her work with a car component manufacturer in Japan – she did what sounded like very nice and elegant work with four 2-hour sessions over several months with team leaders from the production line.  It’s outstanding to see SF ideas is use in all these different contexts.

I also heard very good reports about the workshops of Coert Visser and Gwenda Schlundt Bodien on the power of positive expectations (which he has put on youtube – see the presentation at ), my sfwork colleague Shakya Kumara on SF and personal effectiveness,  and Paolo Terni about SF as a Darwinian search algorithm.  And there was lots more! Not to mention the beach barbecue on Friday and the SOLWorld cabaret and party (what a great band!) on Saturday.   There were rumours about SOLWorld 2010 – more news soon.

There is lots of activity after the conference on the SOLWorld site at  Get over there and join up if you haven’t already, it’s free.  You can find some handouts from the workshops in the group , and photos from the event at (and I must mention Klaus Schenck’s usual great photo album at ).  And I even managed to write a blog post for my ‘other’ blog about seafood too – check out


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