Consulting Innovation: A Critical Perspective on Innovation Practices in Human-Centred Innovation Consultancies through Actor-Network Theory

Morten Søgaard Andersen & Jens Brændgaard Poulsen

Student thesis: Master thesis

Abstract

Human-centred approaches are proclaimed as a new way of solving problems related to competitiveness and globalization. These approaches to managing innovation have become popular in the private and public sector and in academia. As a result an industry of humancentred innovation consultancies (HCIC) has emerged over the last 10-15 years in Denmark. HCICs offer clients an outside-in perspective on their organisation through qualitative studies of the clients’ users, and consult in managing innovation projects through design methods. However, many projects strand and do not result in any materialized change. This thesis is a qualitative study of innovation processes in the relation between HCIC, clients and their users. The objective of this thesis is through a case study to provide a critical perspective on how innovation projects are managed in HCICs. With Actor-Network Theory and the framework of translation, it analyses fieldwork and interviews within seven Danish HCICs. The research of this thesis finds a strategically governing discourse inside HCICs that new knowledge diffuses into client organisations through “Eureka moments”, which by itself will lead to innovation over time. A desire to produce innovations free of organisational habit, as part of HCICs’ design methods, is sustaining that governing discourse. From a practice perspective this thesis confronts these discourses in arguing that the trajectory of an innovation is a process of translation depended on the innovation’s ability to find followers both in and outside the client organisation. The thesis argues that the becoming of an innovation is partially a political process by which the innovation’s spokespersons influence others to become attached to the new idea. If an organizational perspective is not addressed through an innovation project it runs the risk of becoming nothing but pies in the sky to the client organization. Finally, this thesis argues for a dynamic stakeholder analysis throughout a project. For this, the Actor Action Model is proposed as a model for strategically managing actors and actions for an innovation to become. The Actor Action Model facilitates a reflective exercise to accompany the design and qualitative methods practiced in HCICs.

EducationsMSocSc in Organisational Innovation and Entrepreneurship , (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
LanguageEnglish
Publication date2014
Number of pages123