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The Noble Art of Demand Shaping
Ernst Hollander, University College of Gaevle, Sweden

There's an enigmatic tenacity in sustainable innovation processes. I try to explain it by introducing demand shaping as a mirror process to the innovation process. In the literature on innovation it is often noted that it is impossible to plan radical innovation. Studies by economists and business economists alike have, however, mostly analysed those that are radical in a technological or economic sense. I introduce a third type of radicalness - radicalness in the demand shaping. Economists have had a hard time in appreciating this type of radicalness since they are seldom willing to rub shoulders with social anthropologists or sociologists.

Sustainable innovation processes often involve creative demand shaping since they presuppose dialogues that bridge huge distances of rationalities. Cases in point are when new or old social movements must interact with planners of infrastructure or R&D departments of TNC's in order to find (part) solutions for their sustainability demands. The complexity of the bridge building becomes even greater since the creative path breakers on both sides of the innovative user<->producer relation live very precarious lives in their respective organisations. Creativity is seen as threatening by the establishments of the organisations since new patterns of thought often devalue traditional competencies, networks etc.

Creative bridge building often takes place at protomarkets where path breakers from users and producers meet. Those producers - such as innovative industrial firms - who, through their "representatives" at proto markets, listen to the "weak signals" from new demand shapers will, however, often be punished for their receptiveness. This occurs if those who look like path breakers on the "user side", in my words new demand shapers, can not develop into representatives of the broader user side. Because the user side must have a rewarding capacity in relation to those producers that dare to venture into sustainable innovation processes. The rewards can take many forms but I summarise them with the term Dominant Demand. Successful demand shapers must thus be both small/flexible and big/resource rich. This is a dilemma for many sustainable innovations.

If, however, the many challenges are successfully met this will mean a lot for both sustainability and the actors involved.

 

 
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