Water Innovation Lab

Guest Blog: Five Lessons From the Water Innovation Lab

By Karen Kun from Waterlution

In Autumn 2013, Waterlution hosted the second Water Innovation Lab (WIL 2013) in Alberta, enhancing our learning from the first WIL in 2010. WIL 2013 was designed to bring together young leaders and multi-sector professionals from across Canada to learn, connect and collaborate on approaches for a dynamic water future. WIL 2013 took place over 6 days in the Canadian Rockies, away from usual creature comforts and limited internet usage, to promote one of our design features of “ disconnect from what you do everyday and connect with who and what is present”.

Our top five lessons from WIL 2013:

  1. MIXING: Combining unknown ingredients can create something unprecedented.
    Bringing in participants and resource guests* with the “less obvious” water connection took a lot of time, energy and personal attention yet it was worth it! Innovation comes from people asking interesting questions while being part of a unique shared experience. Then mixing that people/place combination with creativity and coming away with ideas, companies and projects never before imagined.
  2. BALANCE: At WIL 2013 magic happened in the spaces between chaos and order. The Lab design sought balance between: differing perspectives; the expected and surprises; comfortable routine and new challenges; as well as structure/schedule and play/openness for new ideas and connections to emerge. Opportunities for playfulness and time in nature were key components in the overall design.
  3. OPPORUNTIES FOR PRATICE: Learning to practice and practicing what we learn. Participants of “Stream 2 – Strategic Conversations in Water Work” played a pivotal role in closing the Lab. By providing opportunities for practice we witnessed their enjoyment, experienced their skills and celebrated their confidence.
  4. BUILDING TRUST: Trust in one another and trust in the process.
    From our experience we know it’s important to spend several days and nights together to build trust among participants (most of whom were strangers prior to the Lab). There is something exhilarating about being surprised. Before the Lab everyone was pushing for an agenda, wanting to know what was going to happen when and where. We provided enough of an agenda for participants to come; yet there were still a number of unknowns. Quickly, participants trusted us enough to convene despite not having all the answers of what the Lab entailed.
  5. CHALLENGING: What’s an experience without a challenge?
    Often the Lab was very much about challenging participants to step outside of their comfort zone. As hosts and conveners, Waterlution also challenged ourselves to do something we had never done before in the Lab design. We realized that if we were asking others to embrace layers of discomfort for transformational learning, then we needed to embrace the same ideology and spread it in every aspect of the design and process.

For more information about WIL 2013 click HERE.

To see videos from WIL 2014 click HERE.

*Resource guests are stand-out leaders, who provide expertise, provoke and engage throughout the Lab process.



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