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CARVING OUT THE PRODUCT MEANING: from Pre-emptying to Embodying
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: "Innovation through engineering, business and design", 2014Conference paper, Published paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

When companies stay within the existing thinking frame of a product they risk to miss an important aspect, namely the meaning of it. By describing products in terms of function or visual appearance they tend to surface the product rather than deeply understand the reason of using it, its “why”, i.e. its meaning.

To compensate for “locked in” interpretations of products many different approaches have been proposed, like deBonos hats (deBono 1986), “design thinking” (Brown 2009 ) and user innovation (von Hippel 2005). These approaches often result in a vast amount of ideas about solutions aimed at improving functionality, but they hardly dig into the interpretation of product meaning. They appear effective in innovating solutions, the “how” of a product, but: are they adequate as well when it comes to innovating the meaning of a product, its “why”?

 

This paper explores what happens when firms move innovation deeper, and instead of innovating a solution for an existing problem or meaning, they want to change the product meaning. In particular it focuses on the process of innovation of meaning, and its differences with more traditional and well-known processes that aim at innovate solutions. It tells the story of four companies that went through several stages of reflection on product meaning. Our objective is to detect the nature of the process of innovation of meaning and understand if it aligns with the basic principles of problems solving that has been proposed by innovation literature in the last decade.

 

By digging into the stories of meaning driven innovation projects of these firms, we unveil that: (1) the process of innovation of meaning differs substantially from the process of innovation of solutions; indeed, its principles are mostly opposite than to what is stated from innovation literature focused on problem solving. (2) The process of innovation of meaning evolves along four major phases: from a silent evolving of interest, to a conscious pre-emptying of existing beliefs, an iterative and multifaceted conversing and finally the embodying of the new proposed meaning. (3) These four phases are in line with the dynamic of change processes explored by scholars who have received less attention in the innovation literature. And these are researchers who have addressed change in humans and society from the perspective of the interpretation and search for meaning: philosophers of hermeneutics (Gadamer, Ricoeur), leadership (Scharmer), human disciplines (Hekkert). Aligning the process of innovation of meaning with different domains of knowledge is both a confirmation of the need for new approaches within innovation research -  and an invitation to search for new frames of within the same. The aim of this study has been to propose and spur research to understand no only how to find new solutions, but also, how to create products and services that are give new meaning to people and businesses.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2014.
Keyword [en]
Innovation by meaning, conversing, pre-emptying, conversations, embodying
National Category
Design
Research subject
Innovation and Design
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:mdh:diva-27250OAI: oai:DiVA.org:mdh-27250DiVA: diva2:775262
Conference
21th EIASM International Product Development Management Conference, June 15-17 Limerick, Ireland, 2014
Available from: 2014-12-31 Created: 2014-12-31 Last updated: 2016-03-10Bibliographically 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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