Everyone is talking innovation, but what is necessary to create – to invent and not only to improve what is already there? With TOPIA, our speculative design lab, we investigated how we get rid of our current mindset and investigate future business opportunities.
In September 2016, we contacted the University of Applied Sciences and selected the top talent from Information Technology & System Management, Design & Product Management and Multimedia Arts and worked with them to develop speculative future scenarios and consequently prototype products or services for these speculative “TOPIAs”. All students volunteered to take part and meet every three to four weeks to explore TOPIA.
We are shaped by our past. Our memories define our identity, our action and our way of thinking. Our picture of the future is shaped by what we have learned and experienced. What is wrong with generating innovation based on what we have learned? Nothing is wrong – but our experience is so dominant in our brains, we often find ourselves merely improving on ideas and concepts, and not actually innovating. TOPIA steps out of that thinking process and creates fictional scenarios that act as new reference points for innovation. TOPIA might even live outside of preferable future scenarios. After creating these speculative scenarios, we need to understand basic human needs and how they can be addressed by creating products and services for these speculative scenarios.
How do you find your way without the existence of light, how do you compensate social interaction in a future where nobody can leave their flats or how does digital marketing work in a future without digital displays? Science fiction already proved to be a perfect playground for products that became normative paradigms of future realities, e.g. the communicator in Star Trek, that acted as a role model for the development of clamshell phones. Consequently, TOPIA is simply about reverse engineering fiction instead of improving the present.
To give you a glimpse into our journey, we want to share some basic building blocks from our first year with TOPIA, on some exercises and how we travelled into the future and back. We met approximately once a month and every building block represents one three hour session of TOPIA.
Our first TOPIA lab provided us with three key takeaways that can be implemented in future TOPIA ideation labs:
We will take all these learnings with us to our next round with TOPIA, starting in autumn 2017. In Summer 2017 we are facilitating the first three weeks intensive Innovation Lab based on the TOPIA concept. This time there will be a focus on an industry driven ideation process that focuses on the creation of ideas for one internationally operating organization. Motivated by a request of a private Austrian University to offer lectures, showing how ideation works with the TOPIA concept, we are even thinking of offering similar labs to other Universities as well.
If you are interested in learning more about TOPIA or just want to participate in the next lab – get in touch with us via firstname.lastname@example.org! We are happy to take more people on our journey to future and back.