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As a group of Dutch and Belgian organizational researchers from Kessels & Smit, we are currently studying the way that organizational conversation contributes to change. We are curious to learn more about change and innovation in organisations, and the role of interaction and conversation.

We are conducting this research in cooperation with Dr. Nancy Dixon, a US researcher who studies and writes about collective sensemaking in organizations.

Our hypothesis is that “change happens one conversation at a time.” We developed several research questions that we are exploring related to that hypothesis. These questions are:

  • What are productive ways to come together and organize the collective sensemaking that contributes to change?
  • What are alternatives for meetings in which one person is speaking and the others are listening, but where instead, a meaningful conversation is held?
  • How do employees learn from each other in such a way that it contributes to the whole?
  • When initiating a change process, what are important ‘moments of truth’? What do these moments look like?
  • How do managers and leaders on the one hand, and employees on the other hand, manage to meet and create encounters to exchange ideas and stories in a productive way?
  • What are examples of how you could vary with timing, duration, tempo and intensity of encounters in order to accelerate change processes?
  • Which stories can be found about how ‘time perceptions’ have either accelerate or inhibited the change process?


Study Partners

We are looking for study partners, that is, organizations who share our curiosity and who are willing to share their experiences and their own questions with us while we are in New York and in Austin (TX). Our research process is to hold one or more conversations in each organization with a small group of organizational members interested in exploring this topic. With them we take on the role of curious pupils aiming to learn from their experiences and the questions at hand. We bring our own experience and stories about projects in various contexts - both profit and non-profit and work environments with both a low and highly educated workforce.

During our study tour we will visit various organizations and will make a “portrait” of each visit with our reflections that we will share with the organizations. Our aim is to bring together the different practices in one article and to relate them to our main questions.

We bring to the study a different perspective, coming as we do from the Netherlands and Belgium, which has a less competitive, and perhaps more pragmatic culture than many countries. Our study team is part of a larger organization, Kessels and Smit, made up of 50 consultants that have been living and working in this culture without the traditional role of managers. We have successfully governed ourselves through conversation for twenty years.

Please contact Dr. Suzanne Verdonschot in the Netherlands or Dr. Nancy Dixon in the US or for more information about our study.


This weblog is part of series of blogs. In October 2014, Mara Spruyt, Joeri Kabalt, Suzanne Verdonschot, Marloes de Jong and Lieve Scheepers visit the US. During this study tour we will visit various organizations and scholars to learn more about the way organizational conversations contribute to change. We are conducting this research in cooperation with Dr. Nancy Dixon, a US researcher who studies and writes about collective sensemaking in organizations. In this series of blogs we explore our questions and share our experiences.