Come and sail with me

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In this post, Philip Reitsperger talks about the joys of an adventurous sea journey. Leading up to the Degree Show, he shares his perspective of the Nouveau Flaneur as an Innovation Manager.

Time and tide will wait for no man, the adage says. But all men have to wait for time and tide. In the historical fictional novel, The Island of the Day Before (1994), Umberto Eco tells a story about the search and secrets around the discovery of the longitude and an island that finds itself situated on the International Date Line. It is hard to believe, but before the 20th century and the use of marine chronometers and wireless telegraph time signals discoverers, sailors and merchants navigated the unknown mysterious seas mostly by knowing about their latitudinal position. Of course other techniques like the observations of conjunction of one planet with another and other measurements were practiced as well, but to determine one’s approximate whereabouts guesswork was contemporary. C. S. Pierce first explicated this form of reasoning – abduction – some centuries later. Pierce saw abduction as the generation of new hypothesis to explain observed phenomena partly by guesswork or speculation. Today, about another century later, finally business leaders and design strategists from various perspectives call for an abductive approach – Design Thinking – as a successful option to engage with the future.

Guesswork in our world, no doubt about that, is ever so more important. Geographically we know where we are – or at least the little computer in our pocket consumed by desire to tell us does so – but when we expand the idea of geographical mapping from the context of physical locations to markets, meanings, and emotions, we quickly encounter how limited our theories and practices are. Fortunately many management, design and innovation books are there to help and lead the way; but the often promoted ten simple rules to innovation are a two faced game. Of course it is convenient to say it is all down to a step-by-step approach, but it is never that simple. As effective as the linear behavioural road might work as a marketing tool to sell (George Carlin), what innovation needs are practitioners that navigate the unknown like skilled sailors discovered the seas.

Throughout my dissertation I encountered several islands in various climates and their inhabitants. Coming from a design background I was curious about finding out what design changes in management and how designers change working in an atypical environment. Translating design practices into management is a good start, however, there is more to conquer than a new selling proposition for design. To do so designers firstly have to recognise the shift of ownership of their practices. Secondly, identify their own skills between analysis and creativity. Thirdly, learn a common language between several discourses, and fourthly, be able to communicate the importance of exploration and pace. The concept of the Nouveau Flaneur to be presented at the conference at the end of June at Central Saint Martins acknowledges this exciting new role of an Innovation Manager who is a curious traveller of theory and practice.

To learn more about the Nouveau Flâneur and Philip’s research, stay tuned for the upcoming MAIM 2015 Degree Show, taking place at Central Saint Martins in the week starting on the 23rd of June.

*Eco, U. (1994) The Island of the Day Before. UK: Secker & Warburg