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  • John McKiernan

The Shape Of Innovation


This article discusses how The Innovation Box intervention shifted from discussing the relationship between innovation and society to one revealing some of the essence within the process of creative thinking and how innovation is actually shaped.

Innovation normally occurs when there is at least one of two drivers; an urgent need, or openness to discover something new. The project was already open to something new yet it was the need to adapt to changing circumstances that ended up driving the creative process; taking it on to a different path. In doing so it has begun to reveal what lies at the heart of any innovation process and providing evidence that predicting the outcome is one of the enemies of creativity and innovation.

The project is beginning to demonstrate the similarities between the creative process and any other process that intends to create an outcome, and how seemingly unconnected factors can play a significant role in the final iteration.


The Innovation Box, inside a red K2 1920s phone kiosk in Holborn, London, was initially intended to ‘investigate whether society shapes technology or vice-versa’. But like prototyping a new product, what soon became apparent was the project was going to develop in unintended ways, as if it has a mind of its own. Societal factors has played a much more prominent part in how the project has progressed by diverting, re-imagining and creating new unintended routes and responses from artists.

In and of itself

The Innovation Box intervention has come to represent the complexity involved when attempting to predict the future; in a world where advertising sells predictability as certainty, unpredictability has become intolerable for many. It is the inability to deal with uncertainty that leads to resistance of innovation and creative ideas within so many spheres of society, and this can manifests in hostility towards change or disruption.

Innovation stems directly from creativity, and creativity requires acceptance of unexpected outcomes. To be innovative there has to be space for creativity. Without innovation, in all its forms whether social, political, product, design, medical, environmental, and so on, humanity will quickly stagnate. Humans are dynamic creatures, even when staying still they require stimulus to remain alert. And this also goes for organisations, institutions, cities and nations; they need to be constantly innovating to be dynamic enough to stay alive.

Unintended proxy process

As happens when developing most things, we found was that the project was not being directed as planned but being redirected by unidentified other/s and/or circumstances. We could have locked the kiosk and used it as a viewing only platform but this would run against the whole ethos of Platform-7 and what lies at the core of a public intervention.

We had to respond in an innovative way, adapt our ideas and rethink what does it mean to innovate?

Innovation becoming a survival metaphor

The Innovation Box has, inadvertently, become its own metaphor demonstrating how creativity and innovation is essential to survival and stimulates new collaboration.

For the project to survive it had to innovate in some way to remain credible. Yet this is certainly trumped by the person needing to use the phone box as a storage place for a few essential worldly possessions, the cardboard on which to sleep at night. We do not know if this is the same person/s showing hostility towards the project, through damaging and removing artist work, most likely not. Maybe the hostility comes from the project disrupting other activities within the box, actively, passively or inadvertently?

In holding back during November 2016, just watching and waiting to see what developed, new thoughts on how to engage began to emerge and with it new people gyrated towards the project. The project shifted first towards thoughts of how people use phone boxes as part of their daily existence through to the layering of public space and how it must be negotiated – all of the time.

As a new artwork by Shabazz Chapman is about to be installed, minds turn to how the phone box acts as a microcosm of all public space and arenas, how the city, and the unseen economy, impacts on decisions without us even noticing.

The innovation box is beginning to demonstrate the similarities between the creative process and any other process that intends to create an outcome. There are choices and decisions that we make, and then there are circumstances and unseen goings-on that we are not privy that are as much, if not more a part of the final outcome.

The Innovation Box is now not so much about how innovation is shaped but the shape of innovation.

Platform-7 Events ©2016

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