Studying and visualising the creative journey through innovative methods: The case of “Solution 100” (Finland)

IDEA LOG illustration JULY 2018 LOW RES.png

Text by Dr Ville Takala, Goldsmiths, University of London / Creative Friction Associate Member

The ways in which coworking spaces or innovation programmes shape the creative process are far from obvious. The boundless nature people’s creative journeys means that valuable interactions can happen anywhere - at the pub, in the park, at a conference, on Skype, or in the kitchen or meeting room of a collaborative space. This is why it is essential to devise innovative methods to unpack the journey through which creative ideas develop. But what does this mean in practice?

One example is the approach we took in studying “Solution 100”, a prominent social innovation contest organised by the Finnish Innovation Fund, SITRA, in 2016-2017. This contest sought solutions for the better recognition and utilisation of diverse citizens’ abilities. It provided active incubation support for 15 short-listed teams vying to develop the best social innovation (in the context of the three competition criteria of social impact, practical feasibility and inventiveness). At the end of the competition, two winning teams were granted a total of one million euros to implement their ideas.

In order to analyse the diverse ways in which the participating teams benefited from the competition process, we implemented a methodology that focused on tracking and visualising the idea journeys and creative interactions of the participating teams. In monthly interviews with the teams, we enquired about the key changes to their solution ideas and the interactions and conversations that had sparked them. By visually representing this data in idea logs (see above image), we were able to make visible the often pivotal role played by the competition organisers in facilitating interactions, both positive and negative, that sometimes led to ground-breaking improvements in the solution ideas. At the same time, these visual representations revealed and helped us unpack phases during which some teams got “stuck” with their ideas. Consequently, building on such data it is possible to offer precisely targeted support to teams in different phases of the idea development process (whether in the context of competitions or, say, in coworking settings).

Due to their complex nature, no single sector, be it government, academia or business, can hope to solve pressing social challenges alone. Social innovation contests are surely one promising way to mobilise a wider variety of stakeholders for collaborative problem-solving. Unpacking in detail the creative journeys and pivotal interactions of different types of teams during such competitions can help us maximise the value of the cross-sectoral partnerships and collaborations on which effective solutions ultimately depend.

*Stay tuned for the publication of our full report on Sitra's "Solution 100" in English this autumn.