— Cultural Sources of Newness

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Tag "innovation"

A new German study of highflyers in business and academia comes to disturbing conclusions: the structural conditions of work and careers in both spheres may well be stifling the preconditions required for creativity and innovation. The authors, Christiane Funken, Jan-Christoph Rogge and Sinje Hörlin, end their book Vertrackte Karrieren (Campus 2015), with the warning that “not much newness can be expected in future” from these knowledge workers (p. 228; my translation).

 

Vertrackte Karrieren

Vertrackte Karrieren, Campus Verlag 2015

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Does what we researchers see on the way to work influence what we think when we get to our desks? Might it affect our capacity to generate newness? Having moved this month to a new office in a completely different setting from my previous one, the sights I pass have changed dramatically.

WZB, Reichpietschufer 50

WZB, Reichpietschufer 50

 

The EUREF Campus sign

The EUREF Campus: “Das Stadtquartier von Morgen”

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Over lunch in Paris, during a break from reading a dissertation about creativity in research, I found myself reflecting on the connections between distance, anger and the new in academia. In the “Cultural sources of newness” research unit we point out that newness is a quality that is retrospectively attributed to an idea, a practice, or an object. Many things that are “new” are fleeting, and do not achieve the status of “newness.” But all new things are nevertheless significant for a moment, and may become a source of newness–or not–a shift that often depends on power relations. Three cases offered themselves to me during my lunch break, two of which entail anger, an ingredient I have not yet encountered in the literature on newness and innovation. I brought those two cases to lunch with me, then discovered a different one in the sunshine outside the restaurant. 

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Flying unprepared to an international conference to which one has been invited as a keynote speaker can be considered arrogant and/or unprofessional. I hope I am neither, but this is what I decided to do last week for the 3rd Participatory Innovation Conference in Lahti, Finland . I had not taken the decision alone: the idea was born out of a conversation with Finnish artist Nanna Hänninen , who had been invited to contribute an artistic response to a selection of papers that had been submitted to the conference. During the conversation we had in my office at the WZB in May about artistic interventions in organizations, we decided to propose to the conference organizers to transform our separate roles into a joint contribution that would combine academic and artistic perspectives. Co-chair Helinä Melkas welcomed our unusual and risky suggestion, which she felt fit well with the theme and nature of the conference: innovation and participation as performance. And I felt that the idea fit well with one of the key findings of my research on artistic interventions in organizations, namely that one of the most valuable contributions that artists bring into organizations is the capacity to engage not-knowing. The conference offered an opportunity for me to shift from writing about the concept to actually trying to do it in partnership with an artist.

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The man standing in line in front of me at the Jeu de Paume theater in Aix en Provence tonight bought the last ticket to the concert “Leçon de jazz d’Antoine Hervé: Keith Jarrett.” I was about to turn away in disappointment, but the young woman at the ticket counter disappeared for a moment, then came back with a few slips in her hand: I was in luck, she said, the prefect would not be using his official box tonight so I could buy one of the best tickets in the house. So I was soon ensconced just to the left of the stage, overlooking the piano that awaited Antoine Hervé. The house was indeed completely sold out—to hear a famous French jazz pianist play and explain the art of Keith Jarrett.  As a great lover of Keith Jarrett ever since a friend gave us a recording of the Köln concert (and since hearing about the story behind that 1975 concert), I was ready to experience a magical evening.

Theatre du Jeu de Paume, Aix (photo ABA)

Theatre du Jeu de Paume, Aix (photo ABA)

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Artful conversations and Lunchbeat at the WZB, November 26-28

What happens when you bring together (a) curious minds whose bodies usually reside in Sweden, Finland, Germany and France, (b) the topic of artistic interventions in organizations, and (c) an array of art materials? Rich ingredients indeed. The three days of “Artful Research Conversations” at the WZB this week unleashed ideas, images, questions, plans for collaboration, and … dance.

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A series of conversations at a factory deep in the German countryside last week made me wonder about families and friendships as cultural sources of newness. Professor Artur Fischer, reputed to be one of the world’s most prolific inventors, had invited me to visit his company, Fischerwerke GmbH & Co KG.

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Last week I found an article by Madeleine Akrich that was published in 1998, even before I went to University. So I feel like I am really lagging behind. Mais, mieux vaut tard que jamais. In her paper, the Engineer, Sociologist and Director of the Centre for the Sociology of Innovation (CSI) in Paris focuses on users as innovators. These 14 pages on les utilisateurs, acteurs de l’innovation made my day — not only because it took very long to read it in French but also because it offers a good point of departure to think about valorisation practices, the interaction of experts and amateurs or the role of platforms for exchanging experiences and knowledge.

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