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Pre-emptying and the Myth of the Naïve Mind

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Asa OBERG and Roberto VERGANTI


One of the mantras of innovation and design in the last years is that
innovation requires a "beginner's mind". Innovation is hoped to come from
people who are non-experts, unaware of existing solution heuristics and
therefore free from pre-conceptions. But, innovation does not always concern
the search for new solutions. It can involve a search for new meaning. By
meaning we refer to the purpose of a product, the “why” it is used, rather
than the “how”. Meanings come from individuals and influence how they
interpret their personal and business reality; they create myths. Are preconceptions
detrimental also when searching for new meanings? Should
companies therefore look for beginner’s minds, or clean the minds of their
organization, also when innovating meaning? This article contends that, in
the context of innovation of meaning, “the naive mind” looks like a naive
theoretical construct itself. Our research shows that rather then searching for
innovators with a beginner’s mind (who hardly exist) and rather than trying
to challenge an organization’s preconceptions, companies may positively
leverage the existence of pre-understanding. By a deliberate act of “preemptying”,
employees can clearly express the meaning they believe in, not to
challenge and clean it, but in order to use it as a precious ingredient to be
melted and framed into a new interpretation of product meaning. In this
paper “pre-emptying” will be discussed in the light of hermeneutics, theory U
by Scharmer and four empirical cases of global corporations.


PUBLISHED: Proceedings from the The 19th DMI: Academic Design Management Conference, 2014


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