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Why the ODN Europe conference provides a unique networking opportunity for OD people

Most of us do our research before we decide to invest in something. Be it a book on Amazon, a new washing machine or a hotel for our summer holiday, we need to know all about it before we even think about parting with a penny.

So with the second ODN Europe conference coming up on May 7 and 8 we thought it best to ask one of last year’s delegates what they got out of the event.

The 2013 conference was the inaugural conference for the organisation and, like most original ideas, they are tweaked slightly second time around. The experience is still essentially the same.

The conference represents a unique opportunity for Organisational Development practitioners and academics, leaders and HR professionals, and everyone else working in the field, to network and share ideas.

Griff Griffiths

Griff Griffiths: Founder of Cocomotion and a delegate at the 2014 ODN Europe Conference

So here’s the take on last year’s conference of Griff Griffiths, founder and leader at Cocomotion, a co-creative network for social change. The organisation represents a diverse network of development and change practitioners, working with charities, NGOs and social enterprises to create environments where both organisation and individual can flourish.



What did you enjoy most about last year’s ODN Europe conference?


What I enjoyed most about last year’s conference was Rob Farrands’ irresistibly-titled “Organisations as Sensuous Worlds”. He’s a Gestaltist so I knew where he might be coming from – and still it was really refreshing and invigorating to hear him talk about our organisational lives as felt-experiences. Funniest moment – Rob: “What would you expect to see in an organisation modelled as a machine?” Participant: “A department called Human Resources writing things called Person Specifications.”


How did you rate the networking opportunities at the last conference?


Networking was better than it often is at conferences. Sitting in groups for the keynote enabled me to connect with several people I’d never met before; as did the interactive whole-group session in the afternoon.


When you gave your talk, how engaged was the audience?


I gave a poster presentation. What worked brilliantly about that was that people stopped by if they felt like it – and when they did, they usually had something to ask or to share. It was like a busy marketplace, really good fun. I also got to chat to some of the other presenters. I love the idea of compressing an offer or an idea onto a sheet of A2 – concentrates the mind wonderfully!

Banner for 2014 ODN Europe conference


Did you get involved in any workshops last year and if so what did you get out of the experience?


I didn’t run one; I got involved as a participant – see above.


You are a keen social networker – how important is social media in helping OD practitioners and academics share their knowledge?


I think Twitter in particular can be very helpful because it forces you to compress ideas – and links to ideas – into tiny fragments. Surprisingly, this helps rather than hinders dissemination of knowledge. As a heavy user of mobile devices (I do very nearly everything on an iPad and iPhone) I can dip into Twitter’s collective stream-of-consciousness only briefly, and still discover things I didn’t know were out there to be known.


What are you looking forward to most on the agenda for this year’s conference?


Apart from talking to people I’ve never met before? Rob Farrands again. Plus the Median Groups session from the Tavistock guys. I’m disappointed not to be able to go to the session on HSD but I haven’t figured out how to be in two rooms simultaneously yet.


Follow the Twitter conversation about the ODN Europe Conference using the hashtag #ODNEU2014

Get involved and share your experiences of being there or engaging with those who are.


Impressive keynote speakers lined up for second ODN Europe conference

Banner for 2014 ODN Europe conference

Delegates at the second ODN Europe conference next month are in for a treat when the two keynote speakers take to the stage.

The audience will settle back in their seats to listen to Professor Ralph Stacey on the opening morning, on May 7. Day two of the event, which is at Roffey Park Institute in West Sussex, will feature an address by another eminent OD academic, Professor Cliff Oswick.

Professor Stacey is professor of management at the Business School of the University of Hertfordshire in the UK and his professional background is in management and organisational research.

For more than 40 years he worked as an economist in the steel industry, director of corporate planning in construction, an investment strategist in finance, a management consultant, group therapist and an academic focusing on teaching, research and research supervision in relation to organisations and their management.

Professor Ralph Stacey

Professor Ralph Stacey: Keynote speaker on Day 1 of the 2014 ODN Europe conference

Professor Stacey helped develop an innovative part-time professional doctoral programme for practising leaders and managers in complexity, leadership and organisational change at the University of Hertfordshire. It now has an international reputation.

His speech at the ODN Europe conference is entitled ‘The interplay of human plans and intentions and the emergence of organisational change: Implications for OD’.

Professor Oswick is a professor in organisation theory and deputy dean at Cass Business School.

He has also held prominent posts at Queen Mary University of London, University of Leicester, King’s College University of London and Westminster University.

Before becoming a full-time academic in 1988, Professor Oswick worked as an HR manager in local government.

Professor Cliff Oswick

Professor Cliff Oswick: due to give his keynote speech on the second day of the conference

He has published more than 120 academic articles and contributions to edited volumes and is European editor of the Journal of Organizational Change Management, editor for the Journal of Change Management and co-director of the International Centre for Research on Organizational Discourse, Strategy and Change, which links a network of top researchers across the world.

He will speak at the conference on ‘Re-conceptualising OD: Imagining the past and remembering the future?’


Two community workshops will also be run on the opening afternoon of the conference for all delegates to attend.

Change consultant Elinor Ribeiro and artist Julian Burton will lead a workshop on “working at the edge of our learning to develop Self as an instrument of change.”

Julie Beedon, co-author of ‘Meetings by Design: a guide to positive, productive, creative meetings’, will lead the other workshop. This will focus on the broader landscape of OD work – the critical challenges and opportunities needing support in organisations and society today.

These community workshops will be repeated on day two of the conference to enable delegates to experience both sessions.

There are still a few places left for the ODN Europe conference on May 7 and 8 and a limited number of discounted places available, where delegates can listen to keynote speeches outside the main hall. For more details go to and to register, email at


Ringing endorsement for value of first conference organised for European OD professionals

A new diagnostic tool , called Fit for the Future, showed just how much value OD practitioners and scholars gained from attending the first Organisation Development Network Europe conference in April. Findings at the two-day ODN Europe event indicated that everyone canvassed gained ‘enjoyment’ from the experience and all felt ‘involved’.

Experiences at the conference, which featured prominent keynote speakers in the field and a series of workshops and track sessions, were recorded in real time and provided valuable results combining the objectivity of numbers with the richness of narrative.

The innovative new tool, which was showcased by change consultancy Castleton Consulting, is designed to generate powerful data from stories people tell about an organisation. John Golds, director at Castleton Consulting, said: “We produced a graphic illustrating the distribution of self, which is essentially how the respondents were feeling when they entered their story. “It shows that everyone felt involved and was enjoying the experience which is quite remarkable for a conference.”

Sentiment graphic at ODN Europe Conference 2012

Graphic showing sentiments expressed by delegates at the inaugural conference of ODN Europe in April 2013

One of the main themes to emerge from the event, which was held at Prospero House, London, was ‘positive interaction’ with delegates describing how they were engaging with like-minded people, they were learning and the occasion was generating plenty of energy and engagement.

Some of the comments recorded in real time during the conference that illustrate this were:

“My head is exploding with ideas, potential and fear of losing it and not finding a way to use it back at the ranch. Haven’t felt so energised and encouraged and challenged since a year ago at Leicester conference.”

“Meeting some fun, creative and energising people – it’s so great to know there are so many people who care about working with others in new and creative ways.”

“It’s been really great to spend quality time with like-minded professionals. A bit like coming home!”

“Wow. Hmmmm. Provoked. Evocative. Back to my roots – reconnecting with why I came into this work and what still calls out to me. Great to be learning again!!”

Phrases used by ODN Europe conference delegates in April 2013

Key phrases expressed by delegates at the April conference of ODN Europe as captured by the Castleton Consulting diagnostic tool

The second main theme at the conference was a ‘sense of belonging’, and specifically the opportunity to explore and reconnect with past colleagues and friends. A snapshot of some of the relevant observations around this were:

“It’s been a wonderful opportunity to connect with people I haven’t seen for many years and find out about what they’ve been up to.”

“Exploring the differences between large scale interventions and large meetings – some people are mystified at the distinction.”

“Warmth and friendliness of OD people stands out.”

“Mee-Yan story about her journey into OD was affirming and her focus on justice aligned with my view about why I came into OD.”

ODN Europe will be holding its second annual conference on May 7th and 8th 2014, at The Roffey Park Institute in Horsham, West Sussex. Email if you would like to reserve a place. Online registration opens on Monday June 3rd. Go to to learn more about ODN Europe.

A new opportunity for OD professionals in Europe to learn, share and collaborate

This week provides the opportunity for those whose work is facilitating complex organisational change to come together in London at the inaugural conference of ODN Europe .

On Thursday and Friday, at Prospero House in London, delegates from across Europe will meet to foster and showcase new thinking and practice in OD across all organisational sectors.

Attendees will include organisational leaders, OD and HR practitioners and scholars, HR directors, talent and training managers, consultants, coaching professionals and learning providers.

Four prestigious keynote speakers will give presentations at the conference, which will also feature five tracks of 90-minute concurrent sessions around the sub-themes of developing best practice, designing OD interventions, scanning for trends, emerging thinking and organisation design.

ODN Europe conference 2013

Kate Cowie, executive director with ODN Europe, and author of the book Finding Merlin: a Handbook for the Human Development Journey in our new Organisational World, will open the conference on Thursday morning before the first keynote speaker, Dr Mee-Yan Cheung Judge, takes to the stage.

Dr Cheung-Judge, a Visiting Fellow of Roffey Park Management Institute and a member of the NTL Institute for Applied Behavioural Science, will talk about the future of OD and consider the way ahead for practitioners and scholars.

Paul Taylor, of NHS Employers, and Gifford Tanser, of Boehringer-Ingelheim, will then share their experiences of creating change in their organisations. Andy Smith, of Roffey Park Institute, will close the day with his reflections on the overall conference theme of ‘Growing our practice, our impact, our community’.

A special pre-bookable seminar, entitled ‘Getting Published’, has been organised on Thursday evening aimed at helping organisation development practitioners codify their ideas and practice in journal articles and books.

Dr Patricia Shaw, visiting professor at the University of Hertfordshire, a Fellow at Schumacher College in Devon, and author of Changing Conversations in Organisations, will open the second day of the conference with her keynote speech.

In the afternoon, a plenary conversation around the question, What is the future of OD?, will be led and facilitated by American speakers Dr John D Carter and Dr M Frances Baldwin, who are both emeritus members of the NTL Institute for Applied Behavioural Science.  Professor Paul Sparrow of the University of Lancaster will close the conference.

Track sessions will take place throughout the two days with representatives from prominent organisations such as GlaxoSmithKline, BBC Worldwide, The Tavistock Institute, Academi Wales and Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Trust taking part. A host of other respected practitioners and scholars will also be leading workshops on a range of different subjects from the field of OD.

To view the full conference schedule click here.

A few places are still available but registration closes at 10am on Tuesday April 23rd.

To register, please go to the ODN Europe website:

The Importance of Changing Conversations in Organisations

One of the keynote speakers at the inaugural conference of ODN Europe later this month is well known for her work in helping develop approaches to organisational leadership, learning and change based on insights emerging from what are now known as the Complexity Sciences.

Dr Patricia Shaw’s theories, which were set out in her book – Changing Conversations in Organisations – relate to the conversational life that emerges in everyday organisational relating and how everyone participates in sustaining and potentially transforming the kind of possibilities the future may hold.

Dr Patricia Shaw - keynote speaker at ODN Europe conference

Dr Patricia Shaw – a keynote speaker at the inaugural conference of ODN Europe

Dr Shaw is visiting professor at the business school at the University of Hertfordshire, where she co-founded an international professional doctorate in complexity approaches to organisational change.

She is also a Fellow and member of the Steering Group of Schumacher College in Devon, in the centre for ecological and sustainability studies, and a guest professor at Copenhagen Business School in Denmark.

Dr Shaw will be speaking on day two of the ODN Europe conference, on Friday April 26th, at 9.30am at Prospero House in London. We caught up with her this week to find out a little more about her work and its future implications for OD.

You are well known for your book, Changing Conversations in Organisations. What are some of the key messages from this for practitioners in the field?

When I wrote the book it was still unusual and even slightly shocking for practitioners to realise that talk itself sustained the complex patterns of collective human endeavour that we call organisation. By talk I mean all ways we are continually making sense together of who we are and what we are doing and why.

The book was a kind of wake-up call to practitioners to pay more attention to the fluid world of sense-making conversation in which they participate and to recognise the way this conversational activity patterns itself. It advocated a much more improvisational, responsive, emergent approach to organisation development which has been gathering momentum in the last decade.

What led you to start working in the field of complexity and conversations?

Two experiences came together. Taking seriously the ways conversation in coffee breaks and, as people gather before and after meetings and in many ad hoc encounters in the everyday life of organisations, are critically important in understanding how what happens is happening. I began to see how much we reify what are always processes of relating and of course much of that relating is conversational in nature.

And then I met and began working with Ralph Stacey in the mid-1990s. In many disciplines we realised how the perspective of complexity, self-organisation and emergence was revolutionising understanding of the way continuity and change arise spontaneously in dense webs of relating. That led us to found the Complexity and Management Centre at Hertfordshire University and we began researching, teaching, publishing and consulting in this field.

What was the most important thing that you learned about yourself doing this work?

That working with my own spontaneity of response was crucial for working ‘live’, from within the midst of events rather than implementing planned interventions. I realised that my knowledge of tools and methods and frameworks could hamper as much as enable my ability to see the small openings and possibilities for change emerging in every working situation I found myself in. Learning to free myself of anxiety so as to move intelligently with emerging circumstances – that has been the real long training in mind, body and spirit!

What are some of the challenges facing organisations as they look to the future?

It seems to me that people in organisations are in a particularly strange time of ever-increasing tension: uncertainty, plurality, multiplicity, unpredictability is recognised everywhere yet the calls of regulatory controls at all levels demand ever more detailed and stringent accounting from people to show that they can realise previous intentions to deliver precise outcomes.

And what will this call for from OD practitioners and scholars?

As our technology becomes ever more ingenious how do we retain confidence in the ways humans come to trust themselves and one another, listen to what rings true and false, make ethical judgements and evaluations and so on? These human capacities, which are relational in nature, seem to me to be vital for protecting our planet from the worst excesses of our rapid technological evolution.

Are there any patterns in particular that you see emerging in European work in this field?

Europe has a different set of influences philosophically from the US as well as a very different political heritage. I have found a particular understanding of what is meant by working with emergent process when I work with European colleagues and when I draw on European scholarship. I will be speaking about this in my conference contribution.

What advice might you give us as a collective meeting for the first time?

To recognise our growing maturity as a field of practice in which greater modesty of ambition would be welcome. It seems to me the mark of an earlier phase in a relatively young profession such as OD that we chased after grand schemes to change the world. I hope to see us wiser, more thoughtful, with a much deeper appreciation of the paradoxes of change within which we work.

For more information on the upcoming conference and to register for a place, please visit the ODN Europe website here:

Trâchlîche Wîs: Awareness, Wisdom and Choice

How do I cultivate wiser choices for myself…

and those who look to me for clarity and guidance?

 Is this one of your most pressing questions?

 Trâchlîche Wîs: Awareness, Wisdom and Choice

….. is the title of a hands-on workshop exploring what we must learn and practise in order to make wiser choices.   Building upon research from her recent book, Finding Merlin: A Handbook for the Human Development Journey in our new Organisational  World, NTL member, Kate Cowie, suggests that a capacity for new ways of thinking about our most pressing challenges and opportunities depends heavily upon awareness and wisdom. These aspects of who we are, therefore, are fundamental to the broader framework, and the knowledge and the skill practices that participants will experience.

Kate Cowie ODN Europe

Kate Cowie: Will build on research from her new book during the workshop

Awareness is consciousness of what is happening in our surroundings and what is happening to us. The ability to apply this critical skill distinguishes those who produce informed and useful actions.

Wisdom is insightful extrapolations from information, knowledge, and experience.  Those who develop this unique human quality create understanding where there has been no understanding, and choices not otherwise explored.

We are constantly making choices, wise or otherwise about how we use ourselves as MANAGERS, LEADERS, COACHES, TEAM  LEADERS and INDIVIDUAL CONTRIBUTORS  in everyday living as well as in our roles at work.

This workshop offers a timely opportunity to step back from the speed and chaos to deepen our understanding of a few enduring concepts and habits that will serve those of us who aim to influence (as we are also influenced by)  the quality of the environments in which we live and work.

Dr Frances Baldwin

Dr Frances Baldwin

Co-facilitating the workshop, which is at Prospero House, London, from April 22nd to 24th, is emeritus NTL member Dr. M. Frances Baldwin.  Read  details about the workshop and faculty at

Also see details on the inaugural ODN Conference Europe:

Seminar to help OD practitioners get published

AN IMPORTANT seminar is taking place next month for Organisational Development practitioners to help them codify their ideas and practice in journal articles and even books.

The session is at Prospero House, London, on April 25, between 6.30pm and 8.30pm, and follows immediately after the first day of the inaugural conference of ODN Europe, a new network formed to enable OD professionals to foster and showcase new thinking and practice.

The seminar, entitled ‘Getting Published’, is being convened by Kate Cowie, editor of the NTL Institute’s practitioner journal, Practising Social Change, and author of 2012 book Finding Merlin: a handbook for the human development journey in our new organisational world.

Dr David Kiel - presenting at the ODN Europe writers' seminar

Dr David Kiel – presenting at the ODN Europe writers’ seminar

Dr David Kiel will talk about how OD practitioners and scholars can formulate ideas and develop writing that makes a genuine contribution to knowledge in the field. Leadership Co-ordinator at the University of North Carolina and steward of NTL’s Research Community of Practice, Dr Kiel has written articles on how to use OD approaches to address problems in government, environment, education, economic development and poverty alleviation.

Dr Earon Kavanagh is attending the ODN Europe writer's seminar

Dr Earon Kavanagh: Will guide OD practitioners and scholars on writing for journals

To help delegates write for journals, NTL member Dr Earon Kavanagh will speak about the importance of ‘crafting’ an article and substantiating text with theory and practice examples. Dr Kavanagh, who is Scholar in Residence at Practising Social Change, delivers more than 40 psychology courses to graduate social change practice students at the City of University of Seattle and to students at the University Canada West business school.

Paul Jervis is attending the ODN Europe writers' seminar

Paul Jervis: A publisher of professional development books will talk at the writer’s seminar

If participants in the seminar are considering writing a book, they will be guided at the session by Paul Jervis, managing director of Libri Publishing, a niche publisher which focuses primarily on books which contribute to continuing professional development.  Mr Jervis, a former Visiting Professor in Organisation Development at Middlesex University Business School, will talk about the challenges of mapping ideas into a story form, finding a publisher and sustaining the commitment and energy needed to produce a manuscript for print.

The cost of the seminar, which will include a fork buffet and wine to be served at 6.30pm, is £30 plus VAT for ODN Europe members and conference presenters, and £40 plus VAT for non-members.

To book a place, please email your contact details to

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