Eco-innovation : tools to facilitate early-stage workshops
This thesis presents research carried out into the use of creative tools at the early stages of eco-innovation. Eco-innovation is a practical approach aiming to develop new products and processes which significantly decrease our impact on the environment. Designers are trained to develop profitable products that increase production and consumption. Eco-innovation is a new discipline in which designers can radically reduce the environmental burdens of production and consumption through the innovation of new types of products and services. The main aim of this research was to develop an approach that would promote significant environmental improvements whilst remaining a practical, design-focused discipline. Problems and under-investigated aspects of eco-innovation were identified: • Creative approaches at early stages of eco-innovation were under-investigated and few tools had been developed for use at the early stages. • Empirical design research techniques had rarely been used to assess new eco-innovation tools or to inform their subsequent development. The focus of the research work was the development and testing of tools to facilitate workshops at the early stages of eco-innovation. Not only was the goal to facilitate the generation of radical ideas but also to ensure that these were developed into appropriate solutions having the potential to be taken up in industry. The development of the tools was based on literature research, worked examples and interviews. The tools were tested in controlled workshop experiments and the results were analysed using various empirical techniques. First, an idea-recording technique to improve the efficiency of generating and harvesting ideas in a team design process was developed. This novel tool was called the Product Ideas Tree (PIT) diagram. The tool was tested for its ability to facilitate design workshops. Secondly, a structured approach to innovation - the theory of inventive problem solving (TRIZ) - was investigated. Worked examples using some of the tools from TRIZ were presented and a limited number of tools were selected and simplified for testing in team design workshops. The PIT diagram and TRIZ tools experiments established which attributes of the tools and approaches were most beneficial. The development and testing of these specific tools provided the following general contributions to eco-innovation: • A model for eco-innovation that describes the factors influencing the discipline and the attributes of good practice. • A recommended process to transform radical ideas into appropriate solutions to improve their potential to be taken up in industry. • General insights into the use of tools in early-stage workshops such as: tool selection, integration into existing processes, system-level problem solving and providing thematic information. • Suggested improvements for testing tools in controlled workshop experiments.