The art and science of innovation

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Are we actively bringing together scientific method, art and creativity to support innovation? Or are we still in an age-old, art vs science standoff?

Asked to explain the image that comes into our head when we hear the word ‘scientist’ and when we hear the word ‘artist’ or ‘designer’ perhaps does enough to explain just how far apart these disciplines can sit within our culture and consciousness. The latest blog published by Nesta critically reflects on this perception. Below you can read excerpts from the article or click through to the full article at the bottom. Also, on the right you can look into what is going on at Nesta’s innovation lab.

On the one hand, we see the rise in use of science-based approaches to public innovation; that is – systematic experimentation such as randomised control trials – which are seeking to understand how the world works, and rigorously testing hypotheses in controlled environments. The spectrum of that work is wide, but it shares some common characteristics of being systematic, logical with a quest for empirical evidence.

And on the other hand we have design-based methods; focused on creativity, origination, co-production, applying design principles and techniques such as creative ideation processes, and visualisation and modelling of prototypes; and asking not necessarily how the world works, but what is needed to solve a problem. What does not yet exist that should exist?

In the early stages of an innovation process, creativity, origination, participation are all pretty vital activities which create new perspectives, new thinking and new ideas. However, the more challenging point, raised by Halpern in our LabWorks debate is the problem of ‘optimism bias’; namely, that we can become very strongly attached to ideas (particularly our own, which are always excellent).

But we know good ideas can easily masquerade as bad ones, or at the very least come laden with untested assumptions about their likely success. Passing the baton (or Bason, if you will) at this point from a design-led process that has created a working prototype, to a more controlled trial (or series of trials) that can test and produce evidence, seems an obvious point of integration for the two methods. But it’s a nuanced game.

Read the full article

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