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Developing and testing a circular oriented innovation tool: Evidence from a circular innovation festival
Circular oriented innovation (COI) represents a process that aims to mitigate sustainability problems through developing, testing, and implementing new circular products or services. Such innovation seeks to explore circular value capture opportunities through combining product and business model redesign with reuse and recovery strategies (e.g., reuse, remanufacturing, reparability, recyclability). Yet, this full range of capabilities is outside the scope of most companies. As such, circular oriented innovations are often ‘networked’, meaning they require the development of new collaborations that extend beyond the traditional value network of suppliers and buyers. Innovators need to define a purpose and ideate to explore what potential collaborations are required, whilst planning why and how to engage, to advance the proposed COI. The challenge is twofold. Firstly: how can innovators develop a clear rationale, credible vision, and initial ideas concerning who are potential collaborators to develop actionable experimentation? Secondly, how can innovators assess whether sufficient circular opportunities and collaborative value capture potential are offered to incentivise participation? Although literature and practice identify collaboration as crucial for the development and implementation of COI, few tools have been developed to assist ideation of the collaborations needed for COI. This paper investigates how innovators might ideate circular opportunities, whilst identifying potential collaborators and value propositions from COI. Specifically, we investigate what new tools could be developed to support innovators within this process. To address this a tool and process are developed and pilot tested. Our tool is designed as part of a larger COI process that supports ideation, validation, and implementation planning. The tool presented in this paper represents the first ideation step. The tool was developed using a design science research methodology, which integrates both literature and practice. We build upon circular business model experimentation literature and incorporate an underlying logic from effectuation theory, which involves expert entrepreneur decision-making principles. Practice insights build upon 20 previous interviews, which explored why and how companies develop and manage collaborative circular innovations. The developed tool was pilot tested through workshop sessions at DORP, a 10-day innovation festival in the Netherlands, which brought together 16 young entrepreneurs and around 60 MSc students. Data was collected through observations of how participants used the tool, video and audio recordings, and tool assessment forms. Additionally, interviews were conducted with the entrepreneurs. Our preliminary analysis shows that the identified circularity challenges lost focus throughout the innovation process, due to pressures on desirability, feasibility, and viability combined with practical constraints to generate testable prototypes. Additionally, many of the entrepreneurs struggled to imagine which collaborations would be needed. Furthermore, differences between the group facilitations highlighted the importance of this activity in relation to the effectiveness of the tool and the overall innovation process. Our findings contribute to theory by exploring the integration of effectuation-based decision-making logic into collaborative COI projects. To COI practice we contribute the development, evaluation and iteration of tools designed to support innovators to ideate early and quickly upon potential collaborations required to advance COI concepts.