New Direction 2 – Innovation as Artistic Criticism Using ‘Critiques’/Crits


‘Crits’ are to be found more in the worlds of art, craft and design but there is much potential to apply them within organisational life

One version of a ‘crit’ (critique) involves literally pulling people off the street (voluntarily!), inviting them into the design space and inviting opinions, responses, views of the design of the created artefact be it a new picture, a new design of spoon, or a new technology.  This fits well with our technosophic frame as it facilitates the generation of multi-perspectives on the technology.  It also supports the view within the field of creative problem solving that naive standpoints can increase process knowledge and generate insights not easily attainable within groups of ‘involved’ people who are too close to the process.  Often the naive standpoint is frowned upon by engineers who put so much more value onto local expert knowledge and experience that they attach little or no value to opinions or values outside of their group.

Such behaviour is similar to behaviour exhibited by sects and cult members.  Models and behaviours become self-referential in that anomalies and questions arising are only explainable (or, indeed, explained away) by accepted members of the group, or already accepted theories and frames of reference.  Thuds, for example, if opinion is only deemed legitimate if the expresser of the opinion has actually worked on the design of the technology, any other opinions – no matter what insights they might bring – are deemed inadmissible and invalid.  This is a fallacy of thinking known as ‘poisoning the well’, expressed as ‘What can HE know, he didn’t work on the design of this!’ or, more broadly, ‘why should we listen to THAT, she isn’t even a qualified engineer!’

‘Crits’ may be designed to involve solely the design team and simply comprised closed meetings where honest, frank and open feedback is encouraged from team members on issues of design.  The design team may selectively invite outsiders to the ‘crit’ or may hold an entirely open door policy as described above.

The content of ‘crit-iquing’ may focus on tangible factors such as usability, functionality and safety, or may allow emotional response data to surface such as the extent to which the design allows feelings of happiness or unhappiness, satisfaction or dissatisfaction.

‘Crits’ which are structured in terms of research analysis and design conform to focus group approaches.  Unstructured ‘crits’ are more akin to open brainstorming sessions and creativity meetings.  In all cases, the purpose is to generate new angles of understanding of the technology or process, or surfacing data, which can be analysed in order to elicit wisdom.


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