Shifting The Innovation Mindset: Embracing Nature’s Circular Economy In A Co-Creation Session

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Society is facing a critical point of unsustainability, urging the need to accelerate the transition towards a circular economy (CE). This transition not only addresses pressing issues but also unlocks new business opportunities. However, the lack of clarity around its specifics leaves many businesses uncertain about how to best respond, navigate, and adapt to this change.

The design and innovation agency IN10 is committed to contributing to this transition by bridging this gap. Specializing in digital design, they collaborate with clients to create positive, future-oriented, user-centered service solutions. As the company has recognized the value of co-creation sessions to drive transformations, it seeks to expand its service offerings to encompass the circular economy context.

This graduation project revolves around their creative problem-solving approach. It aims to define the innovation mindset IN10 should embrace to design for the CE transformation and explores how this mindset can be applied in a co-creation session. Following a learning-by-doing approach involving exploration, analysis, and creation phases, the project delves into various innovation strategies, business barriers, and conceptual metaphors to develop a comprehensive understanding of the circular economy and the type of thinking required to achieve this.

An examination reveals that the prevailing technocratic narrative of the circular economy overlooks vital aspects of the transition, making it too narrow to rely on exclusively. Therefore, this project proposes to adopt the Living Ecosystem Mindset, which conceptualizes the circular economy through the metaphor of a forest and addresses the limitations of the technocratic perspective. This holistic view embraces ecological and social values, draws inspiration from nature’s open-ended and flexible cycles, and integrates social sustainability considerations. Furthermore, it redefines the purpose of the circular economy beyond mere economic growth to prioritize meeting human needs.

The CE transition demands systemic change, necessitating a systemic design approach. An analysis of IN10’s approach reveals shortcomings in this area. Consequently, the project compares two systemic design approaches to identify success factors that IN10 can adopt. Both internal and external insights inform the concept development phase.

Ultimately, the project introduces the Circular Future Session as a theoretical foundation and starting point for IN10’s Circular Sprint Series. The session encompasses systemic design phases: creating a shared understanding, understanding the big picture, and envisioning a desirable future. It includes the following activities: Vision Talk, Actor Map, Wider Lens, and Circular Idea, aiming to generate circular ideas aligned with living ecosystem thinking.

The concept underwent internal testing within IN10, but it is recommended to be refined further through client sessions. Besides, IN10 must continue investing in knowledge about the circular economy and living ecosystem thinking. This investment will enable them to execute future co-creation sessions effectively and navigate the other design steps related to the CE transformation.