Stuff2Read: Silke & Niels in thoughtful dialog with peers, partners & heroes

Red42 MicroThinkTanks

Find documentations from MicroThinkTanks 1-5 below!

ThinkTank No.5. With whole-systems org development pioneer Paul Tolchinsky

Paul Tolchinsky has been a friend of ours for many years. Paul is something of a legend in the fields of organizational development and org design. He pioneered the Whole-Scale Change Approach, and was a partner with the legendary org change boutique firm Dannemiller Tyson Associates for years.  He has been consulting to major firms around the world for the past thirty years. Paul co-authored two books: Unleashing the Magic in Organizations: The Whole-scale Approach and Unleashing the Magic: A Toolkit (2000). We were lucky to get acquainted with Paul when he lived in Vienna for a few years. At the time, Paul initiated the foundation of the European Organizational Design Forum EODF, which Silke and Niels joined. In 2014, upon invitation by Paul, Niels chaired the EODF annual conference in Amsterdam, which was the first full-fledged OpenSpace community conference ever held within the Org Design scene. 

We met Paul in Frankfurt at the beginning of July 2019, to discuss recent advancements in organizational transformation, large-scale conferencing methods (of which OpenSpace is part), and the relationships between Whole-Scale Change and OpenSpace Beta.


What have I learned here today? (Silke, Paul, Niels)

  • Large-group methods have to evolve with the times: We have to use relevant technology that may not have been available when these methods were originally invented
  • Usually, in large-group methods, we are making little use of the time before the actual "gathering" - while we should apply technology such as Ideascale for engagement
  • Within the 90 Days of OpenSpace Beta, people are instigated to stretch  - in order to achieve accomplishment
  • With OpenSpace Beta, OpenSpace gains substance, or purpose - for use in organizational development 
  • Voluntary participation adds density to change work processes - which in turn leads to much better results 
  • OpenSpace Beta is different from previous whole-system change efforts, in that the scope of the work is not defined by consultants or experts - it is defined by everyone in OS1, and reviewed upon by everyone in OS2
  • Large-group methods such as Future Search, Whole-Scale Change and OpenScale "activate" people. They risk frustrating everyone, however, when not followed up by consistent action. They must be embedded into a structured process
  • Time-boxing is as important to organizational development as it is to writing books  ;-)
  • "Everything I have done so far" - that is a pretty neat book title
  • The laws of the BetaCodex are a great set of OrgDesign principles

ThinkTank No.4. With creative mastermind & producer Manfred Schweigkofler

The fourth Red42 #MicroThinkTank took us to Bolzano, Italy, from 5 to 8 December 2018.


Manfred Schweigkofler is an artistic Jack-of-all-trades. Manfred earned international reputation as a theater and opera director, as a museum curator and creator, and as producer of large-scale, mind-boggling, multi-experience shows and events. He has also been a singer with his band Mad Puppets, and an actor. We met him during the final weeks before the opening of the Lumen House of Mountain Photography - a new museum in South Tyrol that Manfred curated, conceived and produced, artistically.

You find Manfred´s website here, and his LinkedIn profile here


Over the last couple of years, Manfred also became interested in the topic of learning, both inside and outside organizations. He started to work as a public speaker, and as a curator of learning spaces and experiences. He became aware of Niels´ work a couple of years through the Organize for Complexity book, which led to the two meeting for the first time, in 2017. Now, with Red42, we will pursue several projects together with Manfred, ranging from OpenSpace Beta, to Learning Circles. Manfred will play a key role, however, in the Exhibitions by Red42 business that is about to unfold, in 2019. So, apart from the think tank conversation we had (and of which you find our collective insights below), the three of us discussed our approach to creating exhibitions as core elements of organizational development in larger companies.

What have I learned here today? (Manfred, Silke, Niels)

  • A new didactic approach: haptic learning, learning as joint experience and as shared insight, not just individual insight
  • The idea of OpenSpace Beta with the 12 Beta principles as a new habitus, as new clothes to dress
  • The jointly identified desire of companies to get away from classic learning events to really innovative learning and self-identification processes
  • Art and culture as drivers of innovative renewal
  • Away from charging for "consulting days" to "insight packages" ("Erkenntnispakete")
  • Not out of the box, but rediscovery in the box!
  • The idea of the bottega as studio. (During the renaissance, bottegas were used by artists as workspaces)
  • Spaces for shared learning can come in different shapes & sizes. However, the learning must always be self-directed!
  • Scenography and show and the associated technologies offer options for creating scalable learning
  • There are cool new technologies that can help us design experience-intensive learning spaces 
  • The impossible gets done in a few days once the right people are in the rooms
  • Light as architecture, audio architecture: Key concepts for large learning spaces
  • Exhibitions by Red42 are the new strategic management!
  • Learning that does not groove and does not have rhythm is not cool.

ThinkTank No.3. With manual thinkers Luki Huber & Gerrit Jan Veldman

The third Red42 #MicroThinkTank happened in Barcelona, Spain, on 14 September 2018


We had been eager to have this think tank conversation. We have been fans & users of these guys´ work & products for a while now. And while our MicroThinkTanks are supposed to be no more than 90-minute conversations, we ended up spending large part of a day with product designers Luki Huber & Gerrit Jan Veldman, the creators of Manual Thinking.

If you have not heard of Manual Thinking yet: One way to explain it is that it is the single best thing that happened to team work since the invention of the flipchart. And that was in the early 1930s!


In short, Manual Thinking is physical collaborative work material. It is not method, as Luki reminded us during the day, but a set of manual thinking tools that support all kinds of group work method - such as product design, design thinking, concept work, mind mapping, and much much more. The Manual Thinking material, which includes "maps", "stickers", "boxes" and more, allows groups/teams to think, reflect, create, document and store much more effectively than by using common materials such as post-its, metaplan boards, wall papers or canvases. 


You can (and should!) buy Lukis and Gerrits Manual Thinking book here. It is available in four languages (English, German, Spanish and Dutch). We recommend visiting their website and take a good look at the products and services around Manual Thinking - especially if you work in the context of Learning & Development, as a trainer, on projects and innovation, in the context of Agile or organizational development. Luki´s design work for the legendary elBulli restaurant was also recently published in a design book (with a foreword by Ferran Adrià). Luki and Gerrit are very active on Instagram.

What have I learned here today? (Luki, Gerrit, Silke, Niels)

ThinkTank No.2. With agile maverick Daniel Mezick

The second Red42 #MicroThinkTank happened in Portland, Maine (USA), on 5 May 2018


After Niels spent a few days with Agile nonconformist-slash-reformer Daniel Mezick (author of the books The Culture Game and The Open Space Agility Handbook), Silke used the opportunity to talk with Daniel about fast organizational transformation by inviting and engaging everyone. Daniel promotes large-scale engagement, as opposed to imposition of Scrum, or Agile: "Tolerance of the coercive imposing of Agile practices on teams, sadly, has become a cultural norm of the Agile industry. This tolerance of force is profoundly disrespectful of people. It is also one the most pressing issue of our time," Daniel says in his essay about what he calls the Agile Industrial Complex.


The MicroThinkTank conversation between Silke and Daniel was about how to help companies develop a self-organized organizational model, within a very short time frame, and without consultants, without imposition and coercion. It also covered how to put existing methods and social technology, to good use in this context: 

OpenSpace Technology, for example, is a powerful and proven method. But while it has been widely adopted as a framework for public conferences (especially in the shape of BarCamps and Unconferences), it has been much less applied within the context it was originally designed for: Organizational Development, or internal use within organizations, for large-scale engagement.

Dan´s OpenSpace Agility approach makes this right: It puts Open Space conferencing, and large-scale engagement, at the heart of agile change. Which is a notion that we at Red42 find highly inspiring. "This is likely to be the underpinning to the future of organizational development: It is clear, it is fast, it is based a hundred per cent on self-organization - without dependence on consultants, or external experts", Silke said.


What have I learned here today? (Daniel, Silke)

  • The potential of Open Space for organizational development has been much under-estimated
  • To offer companies effective, "transformational" org development requires method that is fast, and strictly limited, time-wise
  • The method of change must fit the solution (Agile, Beta)!
  • For organizational change to produce self-organization and decentralization requires approaches that are true to the very same principles.
  • Classic consulting does not match this - it inhibits self-organization!
  • There are many ways of guiding/supporting clients in "transformation": They all require clear settings, principled approaches, and external expertise available on demand (not: abundantly).
  • Limiting the duration of the external coaching/support is key!
  • Influencing organizations for only short periods of time is crucial for effective, contemporary org development.. "100 days" (short-term) is enough!
  • Concept & setting beat charisma & quantity of consultants!
  • The quality of interventions requires experience and prudence from external experts - and thus few, "mature" advisors

ThinkTank No.1. With master curator Stefan Diepolder

The first Red42 #MicroThinkTank happened on 20 December 2017, in Wiesbaden


Silke Hermann and Niels Pflaeging spoke with learning portal-/curation expert Stefan Diepolder. Stefan works with (mostly larger) German companies on building & designing knowledge and learning platforms. The topic of the Think Tank conversation was the curation of organizational learning economies - a topic that inspires both Stefan and us at Red42.

"If an organization wants to create a new learning culture, then it must create a learning infrastructure, or ecology first", Stefan says.

Check out the documentation of shared insights below!


What have I learned here today? (Stefan, Silke, Niels)
(adapted from the flip chart documentation in German shown below)

  • Curation (different than: paternalism) is already embedded in many processes!
  • When you talk about things, there will always be linkages that will advance your thinking
  • The value of content depends on the person that recommends/presents the content
  • One must think curation in the context of lifestyles
  • We must always & simultaneously cater to distinct "learning types", or "learning personalities"
  • The context/boundaries must allow for individualized learning experiences
  • It is necessary to burst the filter bubbles, if you want to allow for truly new insight
  • Digitalization: Is it the same (or not) as automatization?
  • A learning session about "digitalization" should never be called "digitalization"
  • Seminars will vanish
  • Curation will be of high importance as a role for organizations

Get in touch with us if you want to do a MicroThinkTank, together!