Roberto Verganti has some important insights into how innovation works for cognitive designers. If you don’t know his work check out, Design Driven Innovation. He emphasizes innovations produced by changing the deep psychological and sociological meanings we attach to products and services rather than more traditional technology/capability or market driven innovation methods. Examples include how Artemide reframed the meaning of lamps from something beautify that casts light into something that lifts your mood and makes you feel better. Likewise Sony’s Wii reframed playing video games into a full-body social experience. In both cases these new meanings were proposed to customers rather than crafted in response to perceived needs.
Creating new meaning is one route to psychological impact and is therefore very relevant for cognitive designers. Instead of turning to a scientific understanding of how minds make meaning, Verganti focuses on the designers approach and stresses listening, interpretation and addressing. I especially like his discussion of design circles where a small group of like minded individuals work together and support each other to nurture truly innovative approaches. To quote:
“Within this environment members are more likely to survive skepticism and criticism of the dominate culture. They realize they are not alone and they sustain each other in the early experiments through frustration and failure.”
An example of an innovation nurtured in a design circle is Slow Foods. Focused on small-scale sustainable food production (good, clean, fair food). the organization:
“….was founded in 1989 to counter the rise of fast food and fast life, the disappearance of local food traditions and people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from, how it tastes and how our food choices affect the rest of the world. “
Definitely a meaning-driven innovation.
What new and compelling meaning can you propose?