Professional Development Workshops (PDWs)

at RENT XXXIII in Berlin, Germany on 27 November 2019


Professional Development Workshops (PDWs) were included in the RENT pre-conference day programme for the first time in RENT XXIX in Zagreb 2015. The concept proved to be successful and PDWs are now part of the pre-conference day. PDWs are workshops to share knowledge and expertise and foster practical, professional and intellectual skills of participants.

RENT XXXIII pre-conference day on 27 November 2019 will host three PDWs. Participation in PDWs is free, but participants need to register for the conference in order to join. PDWs will have a maximum of 30 participants each, hence we kindly ask you to register. Registration will open in early autumn 2019.

PDWs at RENT XXXIII on 27 November 2019:

Making sense of innovation in the public sector context

Caroline Wigren-Kristoferson, Lund University
Gry Agnete Alsos, Nord University
Christin Scheller, Lund University
Ingebjørg Vestrum, Nord University
Maja Nilssen, Nord University

Principal topic

In most European countries, the public sector is under severe pressure from various new challenges, such as aging populations and growing debt. Further, this sector faces increased demands for new and/or better services, more cost-efficient solutions, and alternative ways to interact with its citizens (Albury 2011; de Vries et al. 2016; Walker 2006). As a response, practitioners and academics have called for more innovation and entrepreneurial behavior in the public sector (Torfing and Triantafillou 2016; Osborne and Brown 2011). Innovation has the potential to improve not only the effectiveness but also the problem-solving capacities of organizations in the public sector (De Vries et al. 2016), and thereby the legitimacy and trust of public organizations (Lœgreid et al. 2011; Verhoest et al. 2007).

While innovation is far from a new phenomenon in the public sector, systematic work to enhance innovativeness in public sector organizations is a more recent phenomenon. Historically, public innovations have to a large degree been answers to political reforms, e.g. public day care services, public elder care services etc. Increasingly, public organizations innovate to reduce costs, to produce better quality, to meet demand from users, and to engage in solving challenging and complex problems. We define public sector innovation as involving the “development and implementation of new ideas that disrupt the common wisdom and habitual practices that hitherto dominated the solution context” (Torfing, 2019, p. 1); an institution is created or transformed.

Our understanding of innovation in the public sector context, however, is underdeveloped. Scholars have called for studies that develop new theories on innovation in public sector organizations and relate to extant theorizing on sources of innovation (Bloch and Bugge, (2013; De Vries et al. 2016). While innovation is a well-established topic and phenomenon in the private sector, the knowledge is more scarce when it comes to the public sector. The public sector context differ from private firms in several important ways with implications for how innovations can be carried out, such as political leadership and formalized hierarchies (Morris, et al, 1999), many stakeholders (Zerbinati, et al. 2005; Fernández-Alles and Llamas-Sanchez 2008), and that the individuals initiating innovations do not obtain ownership.

Today, we find research on public sector innovation in the field of public administration (Hartley, 2005; Moore & Hartley, 2008; Mulgan, 2007; Osborne & Brown, 2013) and in the field of innovation studies (Djellal et al., 2013; Gallouj & Zanfei, 2013). Studies on public sector innovation are scarcer in the field of entrepreneurship, where the topic is rather new. The field of entrepreneurship is, however, a healthy residence for such studies, bringing in new perspectives and different angles to the phenomenon. Public sector innovation is the result of the creation of a new or transformed institution, an issue which is also studied under the label institutional entrepreneurship (Battilana, Leca and Boxenbaum, 2009). Further, entrepreneurship theorizing opens for studies of the actors initiating and implementing public sector innovations, which are often overlooked in public administration and innovation studies.

Using entrepreneurship perspectives to study public sector innovation also comes with The public organizations are likely to be highly institutionalized and the entrepreneurs need to be aware of formalized hierarchy with detailed rules and procedures that guide the operation among the employees (Morris, et al. 1999). Moreover, the public entrepreneurs need to consider established stakeholder groups (Morris,  et al. 1999, Zerbinati, et al. 2005; Fernández-Alles and Llamas-Sanchez 2008). Finally, the new innovative projects are not owned by the entrepreneurs and the main goal is to develop a more sufficient public service needed to handle increasing problems in the society.

Aim of PDW

This PDW aims at stimulating interactions among scholars interested in innovation and entrepreneurship in the public sector context. While research on this topic have been presented at previous RENT conferences, these presentations have been scarce and fragmented. By organizing a PDW on this topic, we hope to stimulate discussions between scholars in the RENT community, promoting research collaboration and future dialogue. As a result, public sector innovation can be a topic at RENT which regularly attracts paper submissions.

Outline of the PDW

The purpose of the PDW is to establish a theoretically informed discussion about public sector innovation from the perspective of entrepreneurship.  The structure of the PDW will support this through an interactive format. The PDW will open with three short presentations giving different perspectives to public sector innovation. This will be followed with facilitated roundtable discussions. The focus of these discussions will be to share and discuss the participants research interests within the area of innovation and entrepreneurship in the public sector. The outline of the PDW will be as follows:


10 min Opening: Welcome, aim and structure of PDW Gry Agnete Alsos
30 min Brief topic presentations:
Organizing for innovation – the example of Helsingborg municipality Caroline Wigren-Kristoferson
Legitimacy building for entrepreneurship in public organizations Ingebjørg Vestrum
To the smart city and beyond? Developing a typology of smart urban innovation Maja Nilssen
60 min Facilitated round table discussions with change of table (2×30)
20 min Sum up in plenary with focus on research questions and take home points Christin Scheller
120 min Total length of PDW


Target group and take-aways

We believe that this PDW will be relevant for attendants of the RENT conference interested in the public sector context and institutional entrepreneurship.

The general call for more social, environmental and suitability focus in entrepreneurship research generally should make the PDW appealing. Further, as the public sector in Europe is facing requirements to deal with ne challenges, improve services and reduce costs, there are research opportunities ready to be explored in various contexts. International collaboration will strengthen such research.

The interactive comprehensive format will provide an excellent platform for networking activities across national boundaries and levels of experience; at the PDW as well as later in the conference.

Finally, the PDW will provide the participants with the following take-aways:

  • Ideas for future research projects and possible collaborations
  • Network contacts for future reference targeted to the topic of the PDW
  • Potential collaboration partners for research on public sector innovation
The Family Enterprise Canvas (FBC): An interactive tool for family enterprises through uncertain times & generations

Edward Gonsalves, Regents University, UK
Rebecca Fakoussa, Regents University, UK
Anette Lundebye, Regents University, UK

There has been an increasing awareness that emerging toolkits of intervention and development which acknowledge shifting challenges in our understanding of family businesses are required (Holt, 2018). The calls are all the more pertinent given the increasing occurrences of uncertainty faced as family enterprises internationalise (Marin et al. 2014) (Bianco et al. 2012)  Such challenges include the need for an emotional view of the firm (D’Allura, 2017), inside-out and inductive perspectives of family business development practice (Lansberg & Gersick, 2015), participatory preferences by family businesses for managing multigenerational learning and development (Konopaski, 2015) , the reality of bifurcated experiences in human-resource practice in family businesses (Jennings et al. 2018) and the need to develop teaching practice resources beyond the traditional enterrpise education method and related learning resources prevalent in many business schools (deMassis, 2015).

Our Family Enterprise Canvas is one part of our (Gonsalves and Zamora, 2017) cultural probes (CP) toolkit and a response to these challenges. Cultural probes (Gaver, 1999) are a collection of ‘playful’ tools (or “items”), typically consisting of diaries, maps, postcards, etc. The CP is a participatory method typically used for information gathering or as a creativity technique. We emphasize the importance of a new method for both teaching and coaching as more family businesses have become aware of the importance of generative, playful, dialogue as a skill set that surpasses traditional methods to help people to learn different skills and to transform those problems into opportunities to grow.

Importance of the theme

Despite the seminal calls for changes in approach and the need for an expansive conception (Daniels et al., 2013) of family business learning (Burch et al., 2015), and recent demands (see Academy of Management & Learning’s 2015 Special Issue on Family Business Education) to develop deeper practice-based orientations (Sharma et al., 2007), there has been a very limited response from business faculty and family business consultants to the challenge of innovating for family business education and learning (Salvato et al., 2015).This slow pace of development can be attributed to a number of interconnected reasons that include:

  1. Tradition: Although many business school’s and consulting firms offer family-business programmes and services today, most still suffer from a legacy of professors, facilitators and trainers steeped in the traditional management education of the 1990s and early-2000s with a focus on non-family businesses’ learning and development. This academic research-led model in program design has proven counterproductive as a response to the experiential learning solutions demanded by family businesses.
  2. Learning Resource Fragmentation: Education resources that include local, national and international family business eco-systems, books, workshop materials, case studies, films, etc remain highly variable, broadly disconnected and incoherently divergent. This may be rooted in the fact that most programs are individual-centric with no underlying model of the program participants who can vary from original founders, young next-generation successors, non-family professional managers. This despite the reality that family-owned businesses’ fundamental units of developmental are not individuals but to the contrary they are immersed in communities of practice: the family, the generation, non-family v family board members and family governance forums
  3. Conflation: Most family business programs are and conflated within entrepreneurship paradigms, with little distinction being made between enterprising families, founding family entrepreneur, next-generation’s entrepreneurial capacity (Abdelgawad et al., 2013). pg. 2

 Given the above we shall address the following questions:

  1. How do we better deliver experiential, development programs for family owned businesses, executive students or participants at the level of communities-in-practice rather at the level of individual enrollers?
  2. What new methods of intervention are available to teachers and consultants of family business practice?
  3. What lessons might be learned from new approaches to, and new domains, of family business interventions and teaching?
  4. How can the idea of cultural and ‘primitive probes’ in the family business canvas, offer the opportunity to design learning family businesses at the level of the family versus the level of the individual (the focus of the vast majority of family business education provision) ((Sorenson and Milbrandt, 2015)?

Underpinning theories, models or pedagogies informing the approach

The family business canvas that we present here draws on traditions of serious play (Rieber, 2001) to conceptualise and operationalise family businesses as paradox (Statler et al., 2011) (Schuman et al., 2010). In particular the canvas belongs to a portfolio of objects developed for the training of entrepreneurial executives using play (Gonsalves and Zamora, 2017) that is derived from activity theory (Vygotsky, 1967) and expansive learning theories (Engeström, 1999) in which “Objects became cultural entities and the object-orientation of action became the key to understanding human psyche.”. Consistent with the socio-cultural approach, we have developed the family business canvas as a transformative cultural experience designed to enhance family businesses’ competences in increasingly uncertain environments (Gaver et al., 2004). The FBC in its current form is designed as a ‘primitive’ probe (Loi, 2007), that :

“ could be conceptualized as an ancestor of a Cultural or Reflective Probe which prompts, triggers and enables participants to design a probe and then to adopt it to probe oneself or to probe others. Differently from a traditional Cultural or Reflective Probe environment, a probe-designer has here the role of developing a scaffold (Primitive Probe) for a probe to be developed and utilized by its final user.” p 237

Format of the PDW

The FBC has received 2 outings this year:  a family enterprise forum in India and 3E Enterprise Educators’ Conference in Sweden where the feedback that has been built into this iteration.

We address the following questions implicit in the instructional gaps outlined above:

  1. How do we better deliver experiential, entrepreneurial programs for family owned businesses and students at the level of communities-in-practice rather at the level of individual enrollers?
  2. What new methods of intervention are available to instructors of family business practice as entrepreneurial projects?
  3. What lessons might be learned from new approaches to, and new domains, of family enterprise interventions and instruction?
  4. How can the idea of cultural and ‘primitive probes’ in the FBC, offer the opportunity to design instruction at the level of the family versus the level of the individual student (the focus of the vast majority of family enterprise education provision) ((Sorenson and Milbrandt, 2015)?


We shall use the roving idea-storm to increase the level of active participation and gets everyone physically moving. It also allows you to think of ideas around multiple issues at once.

This is an excellent tool when trying to facilitate learning, so we have an opportunity to think of ideas for self-discovery. Eliminating the ‘chalk and talk’ method of facilitation as well as ‘death by PowerPoint’ makes the workshop more engaging and dynamic for everyone involved.

Briefly, participants will be involved in producing the following outcomes (as well as build a post-conference dialogue that evolves the canvas as a cultural probe and learning tool)

  1. Working together toward common understanding
  2. Revealing assumptions for re-evaluation
  3. Admitting that others’ thinking can improve one’s own
  4. Searching for strengths and value in others’ positions
  5. Discovering new opinions, not seeking closure.

Target audience and takeaways

This PDW will be of interest to Enterprise & Entrepreneurship Instructors, Instructional Designers, Facilitators & Consultants (possibly with a special interest in delivering family enterprise programs and projects). The target audience is broader in so far as we believe non-family business audiences will find our approach, arguments and solutions of relevance to their modus operandi. We emphasize the importance of a new instructional method as family enterprises and students have increasingly demanded the use generative, playful, dialogue as a skill set that surpasses traditional methods and that transforms enterprise problems into sustainable opportunities.

We intend the following outcomes for participants and ourselves:

  • That ‘going beyond’ the original in certain ways helps our work to be re-framed within new contexts.
  • Sharing the FBC with peers and participating students allows us to realise a set of relevancies and irrelevancies encountered in the original.
  • The “openness of our design brief” and relatively unconstrained project allows our peers to take a more explorative route in their teaching and if so desired to assimilate our toolkit in their work.
  • To grow the post-conference debate on the use of new intervention tools and co-produce future iterations with IEEC’s Family Enterprise community of instructional and learning practice
When educators play second-fiddle to students - Simulating Entrepreneurial Identity building and uncertainty navigation through a board-game experience in the classroom

Rajiv Vaid Basaiawmoit, Aarhus University, Denmark


Entrepreneurship is a challenging subject to teach especially when you as an educator do not necessarily have all the answers. This can be both challenging for students and you. You want to provide students with experiential and real-world learning, an increasingly accepted format for teaching entrepreneurship (Cooper and Gordon, 2004; Tete and Borges, 2014) albeit within the safety of a classroom, which is not always easy to achieve. Concepts such as effectuation (Sarasvathy, 2001), widely adopted by many institutions, due to its tangible nature and relatively low-entry barrier approach to entrepreneurship through means-driven processes, it can still be challenging to adopt for students who are used to prescription-based learning and goal-targeted learning behavior. This is where the board game ESHIP: Navigating Uncertainty comes in. It is designed to simulate some of the core elements of early-entrepreneurship in an intense two-hour simulation where you work together as a team and go through a subtly-embedded design-thinking process, all under conditions of uncertainty.

The game is technically a 90 to 120 min game in which it is requested that the educators take on the hats of the students they try to teach entrepreneurship, i.e. they will have to “imagine” themselves as students in an entrepreneurship course. They will then be grouped in teams of 3-5 individuals as one team and this team will work collaboratively in trying to create a convincing entrepreneurial story as well as trying to reduce uncertainty. The game is both collaborative and competitive at the same time and as much as you try and gain control, the game has enough moving parts that will remove that control from you. Thus, you can never eliminate uncertainty in the game but just try your level best to reduce it with the aim being to reduce it more than your peers in the time that you have been given.

Workshop format

Roundtable team interaction and discussion format (in a 75 + 15 + 25 min structure).

The game is technically a 90 to 120 min game in which it is requested that the educators take on the hats of the students they try to teach entrepreneurship, i.e. they will have to “imagine” themselves as students in an entrepreneurship course. They will then be grouped in teams of 3-5 individuals as one team and this team will work collaboratively in trying to create a convincing entrepreneurial story as well as trying to reduce uncertainty. Just as is intended in the classroom, the educators will not be given any instructions on how to play the game and instead have to figure it out with their own team mates. Depending on the number of participants, there will be various teams formed – and the teams will be competing against each other to race to lower their uncertainty. The facilitated gameplay will ensure that we wrap up the game play in 75-90 minutes. The remaining 30-40 minutes will be divided into a 15 minute post-game debrief with example student reflections thrown in and contrasted against educator reflections and the last remaining time will be an open feedback session in which we will discuss the use of such interventions in the classroom and what they can and cannot achieve.

Target audience and takeaways

While the game has been explicitly designed for university level students that are interested in learning Entrepreneurship, basically anyone with advanced reading and comprehension skills can play the game. The target audience in this PDW will be educators and potentially also students who might be attending the conference.

The PDW aims to offer the following takeaways:

  1. To allow for exploration of Entrepreneurial Identities via active role-play within the safety of “play” (Thrane and Basaiawmoit, 2019). 
  2. To allow players to experience an embedded “Design Thinking” process without the players requiring any pre-game knowledge of “Design Thinking” or of Entrepreneurship. The teams go through a process from opportunity-search to value-creation under conditions of Uncertainty.
  3. To understand the concept of “Entrepreneurial Uncertainty” and distinguish it from “Risk”.
  4. Experience effectual logic by having to look at available means and information before being able to plan or take any decisions as well as reacting to the outcome of decisions exploiting the lemonade principle to make the best out of the dice-rolls that you get. 
  5. To stimulate discussions, argument positioning, negotiation, and consensus building within a team that acts as a great template for team building and effective collaboration.
  6. To simulate decision-making and leadership training under constraints of uncertainty.
  7. The game also teaches that action is better than inaction and that there is no one “path” to success, though decision-making can sometimes be “path-dependent”.
  8. How can one integrate some key scholarly work in Entrepreneurship such as those from Shepherd & McMullen, Shane & Venkataraman, Sarasvathy, Knight, Schumpeter, Drucker, etc. within a game-frame but yet not overload students with it but generate enough curiosity that they want to read about these texts.