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Meaning: An Unexplored Path of Innovation
Mälardalen University, School of Innovation, Design and Engineering, Innovation and Product Realisation. (Innovation and Design)ORCID iD: 0000-0001-6814-6696
Politecnico di Milano, Italy.
2014 (English)In: International Journal of Innovation in Management, ISSN 2308-1295, Vol. 2, no 2, 77-92 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Over the last ten years, the practice and research around innovation has been dominated by one perspective: innovation is an activity of “creative problem solving”. According to this perspective, users have problems or needs, and innovation implies an understanding of those problems and the creation of better ideas to solve them (Kelley, 2001, Chesbrough, 2003, Brown, 2009, Martin, 2009). There is, however, a level of innovation that has been overlooked: the level of meaning. People are continuously searching for meaning. Whenever they do something in life, there is a meaning behind that action, a purpose, and a “why”. They also use products and services that support this search for meaning. For example, they use fast robots with the purpose of improving the productivity of a process. Firms often assume that meanings exist “out there” in the market. They just have to be understood, not innovated. Therefore, they search for new solutions, a new “how”, to serve this existing purpose better: a faster robot, for example. However, people are not only searching for new solutions to existing problems. They are also searching for new meanings because their life keeps changing and because they are delighted by the discovery of new directions. For example, hospitals buy slow robots, such as the DaVinci system, the leading prostatectomy device, not to replace doctors and increase productivity, but to help them in complex operations. This article contends that there is a third type of innovation that is overlooked by the existing frameworks of innovation, which focus on the innovation of technologies and markets: innovation as driven by meaning. By leveraging case studies of firms in consumer and industrial markets, this article: (1) identifies and defines this third type of innovation, the innovation of meaning (2) positions it in relation to the two other main drivers of innovation (technologies and markets); (3) identifies the peculiar nature of the innovation of meaning; and (4) indicates a possible research strategy to explore the process of the innovation of meaning

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2014. Vol. 2, no 2, 77-92 p.
Keyword [en]
meaning, interpretation, robotics, innovation
National Category
Design
Research subject
Innovation and Design
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:mdh:diva-27247OAI: oai:DiVA.org:mdh-27247DiVA: diva2:775251
Conference
The International Conference on Innovation and Management, Honululu, 2014.
Available from: 2014-12-31 Created: 2014-12-31 Last updated: 2016-12-27Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Striving for meaning - a study of innovation processes
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Striving for meaning - a study of innovation processes
2015 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Traditionally, innovation processes have often focused on creatively solving problems with the help of new technology or business models. However, when describing products in terms of function or visual appearance, the reflection on a less visible dimension, the product meaning, is left out. The perspective of meaning is an alternative path to innovation that pays attention to the reason for using a product, its “why” rather than its “how”. Nevertheless, within the field of innovation management, research on meaning is still in its infancy and lacks well developed frameworks.

The objective of this study is to increase the understanding of the dimension of meaning within the innovation processes in companies and - in particular - the practices that support such a process, looking particularly at nine cases where managers sought to develop directions of new product meaning - spanning businesses within manufacturing, consumer goods and fashion.

The study shows that companies used practices often opposite to what is described in innovation literature. Rather than taking out and leaving their opinions behind to reach a “beginner's mind”, the managers showed a silent evolving of interest and a conscious exposing of their own personal beliefs. They moved beyond standard procedures of information sharing to a practice of a multifaceted criticizing. Rather than outsourcing the product solutions, a practice of embodying the proposed product meaning was observed. In-depth studies showed that when the participants do not expose their thoughts with conviction, the process of searching to innovate product meaning seems to struggle. The act of exposing does not happen in a moment but when individuals open up and let old interpretations fade away, leaving room for new perspectives. Moreover, these studies showed that external sources, so called interpreters, fuel discussions on product meaning by leveraging a critical ability that includes practices described as asking, giving, daring and playing.

The study contributes with an increased understanding of the meaning dimension within innovation management by leveraging theories of hermeneutics, design and leadership. It shows that this type of innovation process is relevant but differs from processes of creatively solving problems. Rather than being driven to find solutions, a meaning perspective includes a process of striving towards new potential product meaning.

Abstract [sv]

Innovationsprocesser handlar ofta om kreativ problemlösning. En ny produkt beskrivs ofta genom användandet av ny teknik eller en ny affärsmodell. Men med fokus på det visuella såsom utseende och funktion utelämnas en parameter - nämligen den som rör produktens mening. Meningspespektivet utgör ett alternativ för innovation. Det lyfter frågor kring anledningen till att använda en produkt med fokus på ”varför” vi ska använda den snarare är ”hur”. Inom innovationsområdet befinner sig forskningen kring mening i ett tidigt skede utan väl utvecklade ramverk.

Målet med denna studie är att öka förståelsen för ett meningsperspektiv inom företags innovations processer - speciellt de tillämpningar, eller praxis som stödjer denna process. Studien har haft en retrospektiv och tolkande ansats i kombination med ett aktivt deltagande perspektiv. Nio fall inom tillverkande industri, konsumentvaror och mode har studerats med fokus på ledare som sökt finna en ny riktning för sin produkt genom att tillämpa ett meningsperspektiv.

Studien visar att företagens tillvägagångssätt ofta stod i motsats till de som finns beskriva i befintlig litteratur inom innovationsområdet. Istället för att dela sina åsikter med varandra och sedan lägga dem åt sidan för att tillämpa ett ”nybörjar-sinne” så visade ledarna ett stilla intresse som utvecklades över tid. De blottlade medvetet sina egna personliga övertygelser och gick längre än att endast dela information i projekten. Istället utvecklade de ett mångfacetterat och kritiskt synsätt. Till skillnad mot ett användande av ”outsourcing”, att leja produkt lösningar på extern part, observerades en typ av förkroppsligande, eller införlivande, av den nya föreslagna meningen av en produkt. Mer djupgående studier visade att när deltagarna inte delar sina åsikter med genuint engagemang så vacklar en innovationsprocess inriktad på att finna ny mening för en produkt. Tillämpandet av detta blottläggande sker inte direkt utan när individer öppnar upp och låter gamla tolkningar blekna till förmån för nya perspektiv. Vidare, att externa källor, så kallade ”tolkare”, gynnar diskussioner kring en produkts mening genom en kritisk förmåga bestående av fyra delmoment kallade fråga, ge, våga och leka.

Studien bidrar med en ökad förståelse för meningsperspektivet inom innovationsområdet genom att hämta teorier från fälten hermeneutik, design och ledarskap. Den visar att den här typen av innovationsprocess är relevant men att den skiljer sig från processer som fokuserar på kreativ problemlösning. Istället för att drivas att finna lösningar innebär detta meningsperspektiv att sträva framåt mot en produkts nya potentiella mening.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Eskilstuna: Mälardalen University, 2015
Series
Mälardalen University Press Dissertations, ISSN 1651-4238 ; 187
Keyword
meaning, interpreting, innovation process, hermeneutics, exposing, criticising, mening, tolkande, innovations processer, hermeneutik, blottlägga, kritiskt förhållningssätt
National Category
Design
Research subject
Innovation and Design
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:mdh:diva-28876 (URN)978-91-7485-230-1 (ISBN)
Public defence
2015-10-16, Raspen, Mälardalens högskola, Eskilstuna, 10:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Funder
Knowledge Foundation
Available from: 2015-09-09 Created: 2015-09-08 Last updated: 2016-07-11Bibliographically approved

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