As part of our program, we usually go on a field trip in order to try to go out of our daily lives and try to see things from a different perspective. This way, we can keep working in our projects but can as well take some distance in order to gain insights we’ve never considered before. This semester, we went to Münich. Just as the field trip was coming to an end, we ended up having the same recurrent question we’ve been asking since the beginning of the semester: what is innovation?
According to the International Cooperation Network for Eastern Partnership Countries, Innovation is “the successful production, assimilation, and exploitation of novelty in the economic and social spheres.” Even though I’ve come to believe that innovation involves a bigger scope apart from just the economic and the social, we can agree that innovation is developing something new in a way that hasn’t been tried before.
To be honest, I’ve always known that I wanted to take part in this Master’s degree and that I wanted to dedicate myself to research and projects focused on innovation. Nevertheless, I’ve never been sure about what being innovative means. And, even though, during this semester I’ve come to understand a little bit better, I still think there isn’t a simple way for me to say what innovation is about.
However, I do believe that innovation must be holistic, it should involve a variety of parties, as well as it should take into account different interests and needs in order for it to work properly. I also think that innovation can happen in a big or a small scale: a super technological product is as innovative as the improvement of a step of a process considered boring.
I do know there are different types of innovation. We’ve learned in Münich that there are projects that can be more social, others that are more focused on the market, and others that are more futuristic and technological. Nevertheless, what I’ve come to learn about all of them, and about the people that actually facilitated the workshops, is that innovation means hard work. It needs constant effort to achieve a different way of thinking like everyone else. It means you need to see things that have never been seen before.
Whenever I think of a project that’s considered innovative, I think of passion. I think of people that are driven by love and curiosity, and that is on a constant search for discovering something new, or understanding in a new way something old. I think of perseverance, teamwork, and the desire to improve something.
If I had to ask myself what’s my passion, or what’s the thing that interests me the most to work on, I would say social innovation. Since many years ago, I’ve been concerned about the fashion industry and it’s polluting processes. As soon as I discovered that the fashion industry was wicked, I’ve been driven to try to understand it better and find different gaps that I could improve somehow.
Yes, I did know since the beginning that I wanted to focus on this specific industry and that I wanted to solve these concrete problems. Nonetheless, this master’s has helped me answer the how, the why and had made clearer for me what. Now I understand about different processes and ways to engage people. During this semester, I’ve come to know better how to gather information and how to actually hear, look, and feel what people are trying to say, do, and achieve.
I’m passionate about our environment, about sustainability, and about human behavior. I have it clear that all kinds of innovation and human-centered approaches end up being closer to the final user than the conventional ones. Nonetheless, I also know that I would like to dedicate myself in projects that actually try to improve people’s lives, and that aim to understand which are their most felt pains in their daily lives.
And that is something I’ve discovered that I didn’t know before, which is how interested I am in working with people and actually engage in conversations with them. Even though the project I’m developing right now has nothing to do with what I would like to do in the future, I actually see thousands of possibilities in which I can extrapolate all this new knowledge in any kind of project or industry that I’d like.
I’ve confirmed that what I would like to focus on must definitely be related somehow with sustainability, fabrics, people, and better patterns of consumption. The difference is that now I’m capable of not only trying to communicate something, but also to make people hear, understand, and hopefully change. And maybe doing so in a completely different way than the one it has been done before, is what’s going to make it innovative. To do so by understanding what’s been happening in the different phases of production, to empathize with persons that are involved in various stages of the chain, and to not be afraid to have real conversations with people.
So yes, I’m enrolled in a Master’s degree for innovation and I still find it hard to define what it actually means. Nevertheless, what I do know is that all the knowledge I’ve gathered during the last few months has actually made me a better person and professional. I’ve confirmed to myself that I would like to focus on the problems the fashion industry has but I have also discovered that I would like to do it in a more human-centered way. Also, I now know that the projects that interest me the most are the ones related to social innovation. And, even though those are the ones that could somehow get a little bit more complex, are also the ones that fill me the most as a person.
As Murray said in The Open Book for Social Innovation “social innovation is innovation that is social both in its ends and its means”. I would like to focus on people’s needs, the environment, and the improvement of society in everything I do. Not as a plus or as a side effect, but as the main goal. Always.