Partners from the LIV_IN project, aimed at co-creating more responsible approaches to innovation, along with key experts in inclusive innovation, talked about the importance of inclusive and sustainable innovation for meeting today’s grand challenges at the Academy of Management conference in Boston this past summer.
The rapid pace of technological developments over the past twenty years means that many people are at risk of being left behind. The poor, who may not have access to the newest innovations, the elderly, who might not always be comfortable learning how to use these new technologies, those with visual or other impairments that can make technology harder to use. So how can we ensure that innovation benefits all people?
This symposium, given at the Academy of Management conference in Boston on August 13, 2019, sought to bring together academics and companies, including partners from the LIV_IN project, to address this issue. Here we asked how we can encourage inclusion and inclusivity in innovation, how it is covered in technology and innovation management research, how inclusive our current approaches to innovation are, how responsible and sustainable innovation can foster inclusion, and what are the best practices for more inclusive innovation.
André Martinuzzi, Head of the Institute for Managing Sustainability and Associate Professor at WU Vienna in Austria, began by giving an overview of responsible innovation, sustainability, and inclusion. He outlined some of the big environmental, social, and economic challenges we face, such as overpopulation, biodiversity loss, inequality, lack of trust in institutions, and demographic and technological changes, and explained how participatory processes and co-design systems can help anticipate and mitigate some of their worst effects.
Corey Phelps, Associate Professor of Strategy and Desautels Faculty Fellow at the Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill University, then spoke about inclusion and diversity in innovation management. He voiced hope that we may see a change in how markets work and in corporate behavior, with a greater emphasis on social good and sustainability, as this increasingly makes good business sense.
“Innovation is the recombination of existing knowledge, and diversity and inclusion provide a larger knowledge base.” – Corey Phelps
Marcel Bogers, Professor of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the University of Copenhagen, then took the floor to talk about the grand societal challenges, and how an open and inclusive approach can help address them. But the question here really centers on how to implement openness and inclusiveness, particularly at the organizational level. A multi-level, systemic approach is needed if we want to apply open innovation to complex problems.
“Open innovation can enable inclusive ways of addressing grand challenges, but it needs a systemic approach.” – Marcel Bogers
The next speaker, Darko Huljenic of Ericsson Nikola Tesla, talked about how to design inclusive and responsible innovation ecosystems. He presented technological innovations that also provide social benefits, such as SMART HABIT, which enables independent living for elderly people, and WATERQ, which controls the quality of drinking water. The big question, however, remains how and when to involve stakeholders to ensure successful innovation. In addition, we need to think about our common interests and how to ensure that RRI is more cooperative than competitive.
“Technological innovations must fulfill society’s needs and be a force for good.” -Darko Huljenic
Finally, Bettina Maisch, who is in charge of the Industrial Design Thinking (i.DT) Program at Siemens Corporate Technology, spoke about accessibility and design for all. She looked at co-creation in the area of lifelong health and care, specifically focusing on how older and disabled people will want their lives to be like in 2030. To ensure that the solutions are affordable, accessible, and non-stigmatising, Siemens held workshops with several different associations, including older people, those with visual impairments, and those with learning disabilities. These workshops helped deepen Siemens’ understanding of user needs, including the need for data privacy along with increased accessibility. Participants in these workshops noted that social media can often make them feel excluded and that they feel pressured to buy computers and other devices, such as smart phones, regardless of their affordability. This places an undue burden on many of them. Diverse and confusing user interfaces then create additional stress for these user groups. So how can we mitigate these issues? One way is by making standard co-creation methods accessible, with the use of large print, braille, audio and tactile material. Providing guidance and assistance is also essential, if we want to have truly participatory co-creation processes.
The session brought up a lot of issues regarding inclusiveness and accessibility that we are only beginning to explore. It was designed as a jumping off point for a deeper dialogue between academia and industry, one that will be continued over the next couple of years within a series of joint actions that are part of the LIV_IN project. Follow the links below to learn more about our panelists, about inclusive innovation, and about the project’s work.
Join the discussion!
For more on inclusive innovation, see the LIV IN joint action on Developing a Framework for Inclusive ICT Innovations
For more on design thinking, see the LIV IN joint action on Design Thinking for Responsible Innovation
For more on corporate social responsibility and responsible innovation, see the LIV IN joint action on Strengthening the Links Between CSR and Innovation
For more on why it makes good business sense to embrace responsible innovation, see the LIV IN joint action on Exploring the Business Case for Responsible Innovation
For more on creating a vision of the future, see the LIV IN joint action on Co-creating a Vision of Living 2030
Visit the LIV_IN – Living Innovation site to learn more about the project!