Alle vragen

What is special about transition experiments?

There are some obvious differences between classical innovation projects and transition projects (transition experiments in jargon) as the following table shows.


Classical innovation project

Transition project


Possible solution for a not particularly complex and often practical problem; innovation with a view to new markets

Contribution to a wider social challenge (such as a problem associated with sustainable development)

Nature of innovation

More incremental than radical; no significant change in the regime

The innovation is by nature radical and represents a break with the existing regime

Time horizon for the innovation

2-5 years

Beyond the experiment itself: medium and longer term


Specialist staff: researchers, engineers and other professionals in an organisation

Specialist staff and others: stakeholders from different organisations and/or domains


Often implicit and confined to a single domain/company or several key persons. It seldom encompasses a reassessment of fundamental assumptions and values

Learning about the innovation and structural obstacles is an essential element of the experiment. Findings are translated to the experiment and the environment

Management context

Classical project management

Project management is aimed at:

  • preserving the actual innovation
  • creating change-oriented coalitions
  • learning and creating new structural conditions (such as rules, culture, legal preconditions)

Even if your project does not meet all of these characteristics the information on this site will prove useful if the project meets any of the following conditions:

In that case, the tips and points to consider presented on this site will help to increase your project's potential to bring about a transition.

What is the outcome of the vision creation process?

Your vision:

 In formulating the vision you should also have considered:

Decide which criteria are the most decisive

The various criteria cannot simply be combined. For example, the more innovative a vision, the less robust and realistic it is likely to be. That in turn reduces the chance that the vision will appeal to others. You should therefore think about which criteria should be the most decisive.

What is a key idea for a system innovation?

Key ideas for system innovations are ideas for solving persistent problems. They overcome ‘perverse' links and contain new links. Perverse links are connections between developments that are in themselves regarded as positive but that have negative side-effects that overshadow the positive effects.

Examples of key ideas for system innovations are:

How do I define the subject?

There are various starting points for a definition:

You can combine different points of departure.

As the vision creation process proceeds, you will adapt and refine your original definition as required.

The system should not be too large

Do not choose a system that is too large; since otherwise your project will no longer be guided by your vision.

How do I create a vision?

Creating a vision usually involves switching between problems and solutions (see figure below).


Start with the problem

Define the persistent problems that you want to address. The next step is to identify the underlying perverse links and structural bottlenecks. You then translate them into a key idea for a system innovation and a vision. Methods that can help you to identify problems include the causal analysis, causal loop diagrams, SCENE and narrative analysis. For these and other methods, click on 'Methods' at the top of this page and choose 'Creating a vision' in the menu under 'Cluster'.

 Start with a vision

You can also start with the solution, with a vision and/or key ideas for system innovation, using them to identify the perverse links or the barriers that stand in the way of realising the vision. Methods that you can use to formulate the vision include creativity sessions, ESTEEM and scenario development. For these and other methods, click on 'Methods' at the top of this page and choose 'Creating a vision' in the menu under 'Cluster'.

Is a vision immutable?

The answer is no. You may need to revise your vision, for example if:

Is collective vision creation necessary?

Innovative ideas often come from enterprising and visionary individuals. In other words, vision creation is not always a collective process. However, there are benefits to collective vision creation:

Collective vision creation therefore increases the chance that the vision will appeal to the stakeholders and that they will act on it.

 When should vision creation be a collective process?

Collective vision creation is the preferred method when various stakeholders depend on one another for the innovation.

 Identify the expectations

If you decide against a collective vision creation process, you should in any case identify the expectations and views of stakeholders since you may find that you have to adapt your vision or modify the expectations of others.

Start by investigating the views of people who are sympathetic to your ideas for an innovation. Use their reactions to strengthen your vision. At the same time, assess what part these people could play in a project based on that vision. When your vision and the plans for its implementation have been fleshed out in more detail and are sufficiently robust, you should approach less well-known and more critical people. The views of the latter, in particular, will give you an indication of factors that could cause the project to fail.

Who should I choose as participants?

The following guidelines will help you to choose participants for a collective vision creation process:

Qualities required of participants

Choose the participants on the basis of the following characteristics:

It is also important that participants can devote enough time to the vision creation process and are willing to commit to the process.

See also the cluster ‘Competences'.

What criteria should the process meet?

The substance and the process of the collective vision creation process must both mobilise the participants and create a sense of excitement. If they do, there is a greater chance of creating a support network for the next phase (the design process).

Criteria for the process

Specific criteria for the process are:

What knowledge and skills are needed?

Essential knowledge and skills for supporting a collective vision creation process are:

Also important are:

On this point, see also the cluster ‘Use of Competences'.

What to do about power differences?

In a collective vision creation process there will almost always be participants of varying status. Power differences can disrupt the creative process.

Equalising power differences

How can you equalise power differences?

Power differences as a reflection of structure

Power differences between participants are a reflection of the existing structure. They are therefore a sign of structural obstacles to transition, which you may also encounter later in the process.

What to do if participants fall back into the obvious?

A familiar pitfall in a vision creation process is that those involved fall back into obvious mental models. You have to beware of this and intervene whenever necessary. There are various methods you can use for this, such as the Counter-intuitive innovation approach, the Socratic intervision method, Protee, Causal analysis. For more information, see the ‘Methods' database.

How long does it take to formulate a vision?

You will seldom formulate a good vision at the first attempt. A vision usually has to mature slowly. It can take as long as a year to progress from the original idea to the final vision.

Vision creation sessions

If you are going to work with a group allow for at least three meetings to formulate the vision. The intervals between the meetings should not be too short, but they should also not be too far apart. You need the time between the sessions to: