System innovation for sustainability at product development level: a scenario method and a workshop process
Gaziulusoy, I; Boyle, C; McDowall, R
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It is now commonly accepted that, in order to achieve sustainability, we need societal transformation, which requires institutional, social/cultural, organisational as well as technological change. This type of massive societal transformation in which all aspects of society are expected to co-evolve towards and align with sustainability goals is defined as sustainability transition or system innovation for sustainability. One of the major actors in system innovation is industry. Nevertheless, neither the theory nor the operational approaches currently based on this emerging theory address how to link macro-level innovation (i.e. institutional and social-cultural innovation) to the micro-level innovation (i.e. product/service and technology innovation). This paper presents the results of a recently completed Ph.D. study. The overall objective of this study was to effectively link the activities/decisions at product development (micro-innovation) level in companies with the transformation which needs to take place at the societal (macro-innovation) level to achieve sustainability. The research took place in three distinguishable phases. In the first phase a broad literature review was carried out covering areas of sustainability science, futures studies and system innovation theory. In the second phase, a theory of system innovation at product development level was developed based on the findings and insights gathered from the review of the literature. This theory was used to develop a scenario method to help product development teams in planning for system innovation for sustainability. During this phase a workshop tool was also developed as the operational component of the scenario method. The third phase consisted of a field work carried out to test, improve and evaluate the scenario method using an action research methodology. The detailed evaluation of the effectiveness of the scenario method as a futures work and the potential of it to aid in system innovation for sustainability provided supportive evidence for the claim that the scenario method is a valuable and a viable method.