Learn How to Grasp the Social Dynamics of Collaborative Innovation

Explore the neglected, social dilemmas of innovation: collaboration vs. competition, perfection vs. time-to-market, pragmatic ad-hoc decisions vs. strategy, independence vs. dependence. Despite all rational thought and argument everything depends on the people and the context in which they interact to innovate. We invite you to play in order to learn how to ask better, so that you understand better and can innovate better.

Welcome to join our “research-for-practice” workshop and learn how play helps to discover and explore the social dynamics of innovating together! Try to trust, collaborate, compete, or betray and see what happens without wasting your reputation, loosing your face, or ruining you business. It is just play!

We offer three different opportunities for you to join us;

  • Copenhagen – May 24, 2011
  • Stockholm – May 26, 2011
  • Hamburg – May 31, 2011

Key take-aways from this workshop

In this workshop we invite you to…

  • Explore the complex and emergent social dynamics of co-opetition inherent in collaborative, uncertain building processes such as innovation.
  • Increase your awareness of how individual action, rules, and group dynamics are interdependent and emerging.
  • Learn how play can help you to articulate these intangible aspects of innovation and collaboration.
  • Get an introduction to a recently developed, easy to use research tool, which allows you to explore the social dynamics of collaborative innovation.

Learn how to grasp the Social Dynamics of Collaborative Innovation and improve your innovation capabilities

Innovation often requires collaboration to get access to different kinds of knowledge inside and outside a firm, e.g. with other departments, firms, experts, or users. Learn to better understand what your collaborators mean, what they want, and how they think and act, in order to better be able to assess whether and how different knowledge is relevant for you. Explore what happens if you have to balance your interests and those of your collaborators. Experience that understanding often means asking the right questions instead of providing answers that are right for you alone.

Does any of the following sound familiar?

  • “Why is innovating with others so difficult even if I have all the money and technology I need?”
  • “How could this happen, I mean we talked about this?”
  • “What are my collaboration partners doing, I thought we have an agreement?”
  • “What if I trust this guy? What if I don’t?”
  • “That is great! But it’s against the rules. How can anything ever change with these rules anyway?”
  • “If I go any further now I loose control, do I really want this?”
  • “He is in my team, but nobody understands what he is talking about, what can we do?”

Heard it before? Thought it before? Then our “research-for-practice” workshop is the place to learn how play helps to discover and explore the social dynamics of innovating together! Try to trust, collaborate, compete, or betray and see what happens without wasting your reputation, loosing your face, or ruining you business.

Co-opetition and other social dilemmas of collaborative innovation

Today, almost everybody from the European to the individual level claims that innovation is good, and desirable. However, it is difficult and risky, the majority of all innovations fail either before or shortly after they are implemented. Nevertheless, there is an overwhelming consensus, based on both research and practice, that innovation is the driver of our economy, and key to sustain competitive advantage, and prosperity.

Traditionally, our view on innovation is a technology-minded one, focusing on R&D, technology, measurement and control. This view is still dominant in many places. During the last decades however, the importance of the (more qualitative) social dimension grew, and with it the role of knowledge, for example in Eric von Hippel’s lead-user approach, Chesbrough’s open-innovation theory, and the Scandinavian concept of participatory innovation by Jacob Buur. These approaches address social challenges of innovation. For example, the experience of many people who run innovation projects that no one, absolutely no one seems to really want innovation – neither their bosses, partners, or managers, nor their employees, colleagues or customers.

Why can Practitioners tell so many stories about social challenges when dealing with innovation and the inherent change?  How can we, for example, solve the dilemma of co-opetition, i.e. the mismatch of our own interests and the group interests, when innovating with others? How do we decide between fully exploiting the possibilities and time-to-market? How much freedom, meaning pragmatic ad-hoc decision making, and how much and which strategy, meaning rules, do we need? How willing are we to share or loose control over our resources when we collaborate, and something new emerges? How do we deal with power in collaborative innovation, when shifting knowledge-needs distribute risk and responsibility dynamically?

In short, how can we understand the social shaping of innovation, depending on the particular individuals involved in the unique circumstances? We cannot give you a global solution to that, but we believe we can help you to surface the right questions that help you to create an awareness of the social dynamics of innovation, and better deal with them.

From theory to practice – learning through play Situated learning of social dynamics of participatory innovation through play

The resource of innovation is knowledge, both explicit and tacit, and each domain has its own situated knowledge and practice of how to do things, what is important, and what is right. While some focus on maintaining approved rules and methods to increase efficiency, others might look for promising way to break the rules to increase efficacy. Again others think in technological possibilities and restrictions, in contrast to customer needs. Thus innovation and knowledge are context-dependent on the individuals and how they relate to each other within the specific institutional rules and boundaries of their knowledge domain.

Researchers found that most innovation actually happens at such boundaries between differences, e.g. in interdisciplinary research or cross-functional teams. However, the larger the degree of difference and novelty, the more difficult it is to transfer knowledge between these domains, because the receiver does not understand the meaning the sender intended. In an organizational setting this is dangerous because it leads to frustration and failure, which is mostly not seen as a chance to learn but as proof for inefficiency and inefficacy. However, there is a possibility to explore the complex interplay of individual relating, emerging relations and rules when confronting novelty with mitigated risk – situated play.


Workshop facilitator

Henrik Sproedt (M.A., M.Sc.) has a multi-disciplinary background in design, languages, politics, and business, and several years of working experience in marketing, purchasing, communication design, business development and consultancy. Henrik worked in the top-management of a medium-sized German retail company, as a consultant in a small German network agency for development and implementation of new business ideas, and as a market-research manager in a Danish regulatory affairs consultancy. During his work he experienced many different social challenges of innovation and change but found only few satisfying explanations and methods to deal with them. Currently Henrik is working on his PhD about the social dynamics of participatory innovation and play at the SPIRE research center.

The SPIRE research Center

Participatory Innovation is about facilitating ongoing collaborations between companies, stakeholders, and users throughout an innovation project. Central to this approach, is the participants’ capability to relate to each other’s perspectives, i.e. to understand the meaning of different knowledge and arguments across knowledge-domain boundaries. The following research disciplines work together at SPIRE: Design Anthropology, User Centered Design, Interaction Design, and Innovation Management.

At the innovation management unit of SPIRE we work on ways and methods to understand the social dynamics at those boundaries, and facilitate the organization of participation. Together with the other disciplines, in particular interaction design, we developed games as a method to grasp the social dynamics of participatory innovation.

  • Zufi Deo

    I agree with most of your observations. However, the structure and culture of the company has a significant influence on how much a company can open up its innovation. For example, how the IP generated is managed/ who benefits/ how they benefit, etc. play a role as well.

    I have been working in an open innovation environment for the last few years and found it exciting & cutting edge for no other reason that the plurality of thought you gain access to broadens the ranges your used to considering. Most of the events where these activities have been taking place are informal meetings where we the willing come and share our experiences and support each other in various ways.

    Most of this would not be possible in closed environments regardless of how open the companies are trying to be.

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