Monday, March 25, 2013

Creating Social Innovators: Using language differently

When Alicia Curtis and I agreed to meet for a coffee I was open to possibilities and opportunities, however I was not sure why I was meeting her. I think this is often the first step in creating something new. Being open to a new person and being open to new conversations. Over coffee we were engaging in practices for specifying new possibilities – the possibility of how do we create new approaches to engage young people to consider contributing to the aged care sector?  How do we get young leaders to consider the aged care industry as an opportunity?

Innovation is a phenomenon that is grounded in conversational practices that generate new coordination of action, resulting in new value for consumers. As Alicia and I were talking we were ‘shifting the common sense’ around young people, we were shifting the background and possibilities and understandings of young people and the contribution they can make. These shifts in our language change the assumptions and accepted interpretations about young people and this lead us to new possibilities for actions and opening up new horizons for innovation.

My base for creating innovative practices is drawn from the work of ontology and the contributions of Robert Dunham and Alan Sieler.  They argue that innovation is listening to the concerns of customers, engaging in practices for specifying new possibilities, and having specific types of conversations that generate new action. They offer us some different forms of innovation:

  • improvisation to fulfil commitments - taking unplanned or non-standard action as part of navigating to produce customer satisfaction;
  • shifting standard practices and processes - doing what we already do better with new value;
  • new offers - making new offers (products, services, results) of new competitive value
  • new strategies or changing the game – building power in the game or building new interpretations of the purpose and kinds of action in the game;
  • shifting the common sense (= background of possibilities and understanding).

‘Engaging Young Leaders in Aged Care Project’ is about shifting the common sense – shifting what people say, see and interpret about young leaders that previously they could not see, say or interpret. When Alicia and I had the opportunity to showcase our project at the Social Innovation Conference last year, participants wanted to know how to broaden their understanding of social innovation and of how to turn a great idea into a project reality?
My suggestion is to produce new possibilities and action (innovation), we have to ‘move in language, that is, make an act in language that provokes a responding act in language’. You do this by asking yourself where do you want to innovate (see list above) and then ask:
  • What conversations (interpretations, practices, assertions, assessments, request, offers and promises) are producing the actions of me or my organisation? ” and
  •  What are the missing conversations (interpretations, practices, assertions, assessments, request, offers and promises) that if they were present, would produce more effective actions than we are producing now?”
For a conversation of innovation contact

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