Learning by doing

Central to MindLab’s collaboration with GNova – our sister lab in Brazil – is building the lab’s capacity to push innovation within the Brazilian government. During our last visit, MindLab experimented with a new approach to supporting GNova: from exposing the lab to methods, to engaging in ongoing work and rehearsing the methods hands-on. This way of working closely and contextually with GNova mirrors the way MindLab insists on collaborating with our partnering ministries back home: always with an ambition of pushing the culture of change through concrete activities, where new approaches and mindsets can be rehearsed within and adjusted to the organizational infrastructure. In Brazil, we ate our own dog food: MindLab joined a current GNova project, and rehearsed our new process model, Praxis Check, on a real issue with three GNova team members.

Guinea pig process provided real results

Praxis Check is a systematic and efficient way of checking whether political initiatives lead to the intended changes by engaging with the affected actors. GNova saw the potential of trying out this quick approach on one of their ongoing projects on education. Together with the GNova project team, MindLab designed Praxis Check to explore how courses on innovation provided by the Brazilian School of Public Administration create the desired innovative capacity among civil servants. Team members from GNova executed the process involving all affected actors in answering central research questions:

  • What do the school’s course coordinators already know about the issue?
  • What does the Ministry management see as the most central capacities their employees are missing today?
  • And when do course learnings translate effectively into the everyday work of a civil servant?

By doing so, the team provided a long-needed snapshot of how the school’s courses work in practice. Furthermore, they outlined recommendations on how to improve the status quo. And they did so in a matter of just a few days.


“This is the kind of research we need but we don’t have the time to do!”

Pedro, Coursework Coordinator at the Brazilian School of Public Administration


Transformation through participation

By working on a concrete issue in close partnership with GNova team members, MindLab was able to experience the everyday life in the lab and more accurately comprehend what the lab is missing in terms of capacity building together with lab employees. The process was designed to allow the team to continuously reflect over and adjust successful and challenging activities in dialogue with MindLab. Particularly, the speed of the process and the fact that decisions had to be made in the face of uncertainty were difficult for the team to accept – but it was also these insights, which the team members highlighted in retrospect as mind-changing experiences.

Underlying reasons for successes and frictions were collaboratively dissected and transformed into action-oriented tips in order to hold onto and create ownership of the processual learnings. Not by reading or observing, but by doing, the team members were able to practice and retell using their own vocabulary the value of insisting that development is driven by insights from real affected actors, not by preconceived agendas.


“Accepting the constraints of a quick methodology and moving on regardless of the doubts and the uncertainties - that was a very challenging element. But it was also the most important one!”

Manuel, Team member at G’Nova