The SKOLKOVO Method
The SKOLKOVO Method is a collective, problem-oriented, highly engaging, a large group approach to addressing the issues of structural development, or, as we like to say – to ‘constructing the future’.
It is gamified in the sense that the result is never known beforehand.
The SKOLKOVO Method is also sometimes called Future Programming Machine.
It can and has been applied to such various objects as
Regional strategiesMoscow Region, St Petersburg Region, Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug
UniversitiesNational Research Nuclear University MEPhI, Tomsk State University, University of Tyumen
City strategiesZlatoust, Yelabuga, Ust-Katav
and many others.
At SEDeC, we employ the SKOLKOVO Method in our work with universities, schools, professional colleges, as well as groups of educational institutions, and whole regional educational systems.
As a rule, we divide the participants into groups of 5-7 people, each working on a different aspect/topic. The communication is groups is organized by a specially trained team of experts of communication.
Typically, sessions last 5-6 days. Every day work in groups (up to 3 hours) is alternated with work at so-called plenaries (up to 4 hours) – joint discussions where the results of groupwork are shared and common ground is reached.
We also use expert input to infuse the work with urgently needed information. These lectures do not last over 2 hours each.
Typical phases of the process
1. Analysis of the current situation
At the first stage participants of our programs describe the landscape of barriers, gaps, and problems of modus operandi of a city, a region, a university or any other organizational structures. The task here is to analyze the current model of operation (M1).
No subjective opinions are allowed. Any statements are challenged and should be defended based on arguments and data. It is crucial to step out of the comfort zones intellectually and strategically.
2. Taking a stance
We uncover the participants’ attitude to the situation in a open and objective manner. It is of utmost importance to engage every participant to take a personal stance and thus assumes personal responsibility for their opinion.
It can be said that the problems ‘are appropriated’, that their ownership is declared. The situation always has ‘an owner’ – a person or a group of people whose professional pursuits and goals are affected by it.
3. Problem setting
After describing the status quo and taking a personal position on it, participants are then supported in distilling the root causes out of the ‘problem mess’ (Russell Ackoff). As most problems that complex organizational structures have are ‘wicked’ in the sense that they are compound and might seem contradictory.
4. Setting new goals
Here we define the ambition, and set new goals and targets – a new vision for the future of a city, a region, a school or any other entity we work with. Who does the university/city/region want to be and where does it see itself in the next 5, 10, or 20 years? What kind of “brand” does it want to stand for?
5. Developing a new model
Once the goals are set, a new model (M2) of an organizational structure can be developed. This is a process that resembles engineering – the model should serve the new goals in the best possible way.
6. Developing a road map
Participants come up with a concrete set of steps to achieve the desired result. The evaluation of required resources – human resources, financial resources, necessary time investments, and determining the timeframe are important constituents of this process.
The sequence of these phases is not always linear and and advancement is often iterational, as we move from one phase to another and back until the process is complete.
What is meaningful cannot be boring
The approach requires the special mode of communication: direct, straightforward, in the critical thinking mode. This type of communication is tough, and oftentimes stressful. However, at the same time it is deeply inspiring, because ‘what is meaningful cannot be boring’, as we say.
The role of the SEDeC team
We act as a ‘red team’ of sorts, aiding the participants in searching for root causes of problems, contradictions and missing links in a new model of operation, etc.
Our team is composed of experts in the fields of education, urban development, regional development and others, as well as experts in communication, all versed in the SKOLKOVO method’s extensive toolbox.
A unique feature of our approach, and also something that we consider one of the strongest competitive advantages of the SKOLKOVO method is schematization – the graphic representation of notions, models, and logical connections. Schematization allows us to use complex and simultaneously detailed representations of discussions in our strategy sessions. Crucially, the schemes are usually jointly made by groups of participants. Thus they represent collective vision.
Background of the approach
The SKOLKOVO Method draws on work of the Moscow methodological circle around Georgy Shchedrovitsky and his son Pyotr Shchedrovitsky, as well as on practices of idealized design as described by Russell Ackoff. The Method represents a form of “organizational-activity planning” (Russian: organizatsionno deyatelnostnyie proektirovanie) and “organizational-activity games” (Russian: organizatsionnyye deyatel'nostnyye igry) adopted at the Moscow School of Management SKOLKOVO.
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