I’ve been digging into a practice-based approach for my research on how innovation (new knowledge-creation) emerges from collaboration. I’m defining practice as collective action, transaction, and interaction. From this viewpoint, knowledge is created in the context of interactive participation – the practice of activity. I’ll call it: “Social Ecology of Knowing through Collaborative Innovation Practices,” at least for now.
From a scholarly perspective, a practice-based approach offers a new epistemology where the “world appears to be relationally constituted, as a seamless web of heterogeneous elements kept together and perpetuated by active processes of ordering and sense making” (Nicolini, Gheranrdi, Yanow 2003: 27).
In other words, the practice of collaboration represents infinite opportunities to innovate our thinking. Interactive collaborative processes create new outcomes, new practices, new relationships, as well as new ways to approach the relationships, practices, and outcomes – as we’ve experienced with LAUNCH. Though, not all collaborative undertakings have positive outcomes. New knowledge creation isn’t necessarily pretty. The practice of strategy renewal and technological innovation is most often in response to uncertainty, stagnation, tension, disruption, conflict. Let’s face it. We get creative when we can’t get where we want to go. If someone or something stands in the way, we get busy figuring a way around, under, over, or through our barrier. Collectively, we have so many more options available than we do alone, as we’ve learned through the LAUNCH experience.
LAUNCH has become an innovative knowledge-creation community of practice – the Collective Genius for a Better World.
Our LAUNCH team came together to collaboratively search for game-changing sustainability solutions for life on and off our planet. What we discovered along the way was that the innovations weren’t the only outcome. The collective genius of the folks we brought together to solve these problems – the LAUNCH team, LAUNCH council, and LAUNCH innovators – was an innovation itself, along with the LAUNCH processes we created to search and select the LAUNCH innovators.
We discovered, in the “practice” of LAUNCH, that the world of innovation is always in the making.
Innovation emerges from the broken pieces of what was once status quo. At the impasse, we devise new ways forward. The key: allow ourselves to embrace the brokenness, approach it with fresh eyes and unexpected voices, and engage in bricolage – the making do with available material, mental, social, and cultural resources.
In the confusion, new clarity is born.
In Broken Images
He is quick, thinking in clear images;
I am slow, thinking in broken images.
He becomes dull, trusting in his clear images;
I become sharp, mistrusting my broken images.
Trusting his images, he assumes their relevance;
Mistrusting my images, I question their relevance.
Assuming their relevance, he assumes the fact;
Questioning their relevance, I question the fact.
When the fact fails him, he questions his senses;
When the fact fails me, I approve my senses.
He continues quick and dull in his clear images;
I continue slow and sharp in my broken images.
He in a new confusion of his understanding;
I in a new understanding of my confusion.
Davide Nicolini, Silvia Gheranrdi, Dvora Yanow. Knowing in Organizations: A Practice-Based Approach. Armonk, New York: M.E. Sharpe, 2003.