Co-opetition as the New Path to Innovation? Negotiating Strategic Change through User-Centred Design Approaches

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This essay analyses how consensus was reached in a co-opetitive setting by looking at two, consecutive but related projects spanning from 14 to 18 months in length. The projects took place in Paris, France, between 2009 and 2013, and involved key players from the banking and insurance industry. FiDJi, short for Finance, Design et Joie d’Innover, was meant to test a new innovation method based on a design thinking approach. FAIR, short for Finance, Assurance & Innovation Responsable, was conceived as a sequel to FiDJi but had the more ambitious goal to develop a new methodology that, while using a design thinking approach as a starting mode, would provide an independent set of guidelines with respect to sustainable, responsible innovation. Consequently, the dynamic of each project varied, as did the end goals. Both projects took design thinking as a starting point but while FiDJi produced a new innovation methodology based on a user-centred design approach, FAIR had the more ambitious goal to develop a set of guidelines and a method for responsible innovation specific to the banking and insurance industry.

The essay builds on a previous essay that analysed the dynamics proper to the FiDJi project in order to explore how anthropologists and designers are increasingly called upon to enable change (Peinado et al. 2011). It seeks to further expand on the role of anthropologists and designers as not merely enablers but enactors of change in multi-disciplinary, team based, co-opetitive contexts. Moving beyond an understanding of anthropologists and designers as providing discipline specific knowledge and skills to an understanding of their role as consultants, this essay will argue that as professionals anthropologists and designers need to be able to both contextualise their role and translate it so as to create value for their clients, users and themselves. This is consonant with repeated calls within the EPIC community to move beyond discipline specific definitions in order to understand the role we currently play and we could play in the future within industry-based contexts. We will argue that both anthropologists and designers are particularly apt at this since they can understand organisational contexts and provide insights into the nature of transformation.

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