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Eco-Ideation Tool: Re-Thinking Product Design

Posted in Research, Tools by Kate Archdeacon on August 3rd, 2011

Source: Food Climate Research Network (FCRN)


Bocken N M P, Allwood J M, Willey A R and King J M H (2011). ‘Development of an eco-ideation tool to identify stepwise greenhouse gas emissions reduction options for consumer goods’ Journal of Cleaner Production 19 1279-1287

Abstract

Pressure on consumer goods manufacturers to develop new products with significantly less environmental impact is growing, through increased consumer awareness of environmental issues and governments setting ambitious emissions reductions targets. A strategic response to this pressure is to prepare a portfolio of innovative product ideas to meet a range of future emissions reductions targets.However, although extensive work exists on ideation (the generation of novel product ideas) and ecodesign (design for reduced environmental impact), eco-ideation (generation of ideas that particularly aim to reduce environmental impacts) has had little attention.

The challenge of eco-ideation is to release the creativity of a broad range of employees, only few of whom may be familiar with the drivers of environmental impact. This paper proposes a novel tool to facilitate the generation of radical product and process ideas giving step-change reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. The features of products and processes that drive greenhouse gas emissions across the product life cycle were characterized with a set of indicators. A simple visual tool was created to show these indicators on a sliding scale between best and worst imaginable performance. A leading question associated with each slider was designed to stimulate lower impact ideas.

The tool was iteratively refined and simplified through structured testing with individuals from across a range of roles and differing knowledge of environmental impacts. The final eco-ideation tool used 14 scales, with leading questions for each scale developed to stimulate idea generation. The tool’s effectiveness was evaluated through use in a series of 15 individual workshops and compared with the outcomes of an equal number of conventional 12-person group-brainstorming sessions.

The comparison suggests that using the simple tool generally leads to a wider range of more radical ideas than emerge from group brainstorming.

Read more about the Eco-Ideation paper here.

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