Innovation: Taking Risks or Making Risks?

Posted April 10, 2019 by Nik Gaffney and Maja Kuzmanović

We were recently invited by Michka Mélo to talk about complexity, uncertainty and possible futures in the context of innovation at EPFL - École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne. We had the pleasure of meeting the students, engineers and entrepreneurs to share our thoughts and experiences of in the form of a lecture performance and a "playshop".

It was an interesting challenge to articulate our ideas about the need for situated approaches to innovation while working with uncertainty and complexity. How do we talk about the importance of questioning assumptions about the future in a field where the value of innovation is taken for granted? How do we discuss unintended consequences with people for whom confidence is a key performance indicator? How do we get across that uncertainty can be inhabited, that not all problems need to be solved, and that some solutions can perpetuate the same worldviews which caused the problems in the first place? We attempted to formulate our answers in text, sound and moving image. Our text from the lecture has been published on medium and on our website.

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As expected, the lecture captured the imagination of some and left others somewhat baffled, in need of further processing. However, it offered an intriguing entry point for imagining innovation in radically divergent futures. Those who stayed for the playshop were engaged and animated, coming up with ideas that ranged from immediately implementable to hilariously outrageous. We played The Thing from The Future by Situation Lab and ended with a round of Instant Archetypes by Superflux.

We are planning to continue the participatory aspects as part of a workshop in the autumn for participants from EPFL and key stakeholders from the region.

We're looking forward to working with Michka again. It's been, as always, a real pleasure.