Project bubble – true or false?

Teksti | Mika Launikari

I started thinking about the concept of a project bubble because it had been on my mind for a long time. I did an online search for ’project bubble’, but the results were very poor. It seems that no one has written or published much about the phenomenon, at least not online. I didn’t necessarily expect to find rigorous academic research on the subject, but some blogs at least. Nevertheless, the project bubble seems to be, to some extent, uncharted territory, so I will address it in this text. First, however, we need to explain to the reader what we mean by a bubble and by being in a bubble.

Photo by Kind and Curious on Unsplash

Being in your own bubble feels safe, natural and right. In general, being in a bubble means that our personal and professional views and experiences are always somehow limited and coloured. Each of us lives in our own bubble where a certain reality prevails. It is not easy to get out of the bubble and look beyond our own views and experiences. We like to reinforce our own bubble by seeking support for our thoughts, beliefs and opinions from like-minded people. This often happens in the workplace, where we tend to seek out the company of colleagues who think along the same professional lines, and keep at a distance those whose ways of acting and thinking do not fit into our own reality.

On the other hand, in order to develop one’s own professional and other thinking, it is necessary to interact with experts from different backgrounds and simply with people from all walks of life. Encounters provide us with influences, inspirations and inputs that shape us and, in the best case, lead our thoughts in new directions. Interacting with others in a free-form or goal-oriented way can provide us with something that forces us to critically examine and possibly revise our own perspectives and update our views.

The world is full of correct and researched information. We can count on that. At the same time, we are unwittingly subject to information influence, exposing ourselves to vague and misleading information. Every day, in our bubble, we have to ask ourselves what is true, what is false. It is important to understand the risk of spreading misinformation through your actions. Although we question the information we receive from different channels and sources, it is ultimately entirely up to us to decide which truth we want to believe and which truth to ’make a fuss about’. So we are constantly in a bubble from which we look at and evaluate the world and our relationship with it.

The Blessing and Curse of Project Reality

Reality is everything that can be proven to exist. Project reality, on the other hand, is what exists within a single project. It includes at least the organisations involved in the project and their experts with specific competences, partners, target groups and stakeholders, equipment and applications, financial resources, external service providers, instructions and regulations from the funder and, of course, a work plan drawn up for the entire duration of the project describing the objectives and expected results. In general, an individual RDI project is carried out both as part of the institutional activities of the higher education institution and, to some extent, independently of them.

The challenge for any externally funded RDI project is to achieve its objectives with limited resources and on time. This requires a schedule and a more detailed work plan for the project team, as well as a playbook to guide operations, i.e. light, easy to maintain and flexible instructions or agreements on common operating and working methods. All instructions and rules of the game have a significant impact on how the project reality will unfold and how the project bubble will start to develop.

The development of the project is based on people and the results depend on how well the project experts work individually and together. When the project team works together seamlessly, cohesion is created based on mutual attraction and synergy between team members. The solidity of the project team is a unifying force that resists the internal and external forces that threaten and divide it. All this strengthens the ’we’ spirit, creates a ’we’ reality (’our project is the best’) and helps to build the team’s own project bubble. If you start to live firmly in your own comfortable project bubble, there is a danger that the project will become too detached in its own orbit, without being connected to the surrounding reality.

It is good if there is a strong cohesion in the project team and its members are committed to working together. In this case, the project manager’s role is to ensure that the project continues to progress towards the desired goal and that the project is integrated with the other activities of the university and its project partners. If there are disagreements and differing views in the project team about procedures or the direction of the project, the project manager and other team members spend time sorting things out. This reduces the time available for the project work itself. In this case, it can also happen that the team does not create a common (positive) project bubble, but each project worker lives in his or her own bubble without connecting to the other individual bubbles. Everyone just ploughs their own furrow without much regard for what others are doing, let alone the common outcome.

It is often observed how little different projects communicate with each other, even if they are doing development work in the same thematic area. The projects remain separate from each other, although the exchange of information and experience between them could be extremely enriching for their activities and possible co-creation in a win-win spirit. In general, each project wants to stand out from the crowd, to be better, more visible and more effective than the others. In a way, this is understandable, although there should be no competition between projects. Rather, it is about how publicly funded projects, individually and collectively, are able to deliver the greatest good for individuals, communities and society as a whole. That is why we need to ensure that projects do not get stuck in their own project bubbles, but work openly, transparently and constructively with other projects. This will create a more sustainable future for us all.

Information about the author:

Mika Launikari, PhD, M.Sc. (Econ.), works at Laurea as a senior specialist responsible for international cooperation in higher education. During his career, he has prepared several project proposals that have received national and international funding and has participated in various roles in many Finnish and European development projects in the fields of education and working life. Launikari has also worked in the evaluation of project proposals in Finland and for the EU.


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