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HOI research | Synthesis in innovation helps teams converge on strategic visions

A collaborative process based on synthesis helps teams align on new strategic visions, enhancing idea integration and emotional engagement. Published in Innovation: Organization & Management, the study explores how synthesis can reconcile different ideas to generate a shared innovative vision, highlighting its benefits and challenges.

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How synthesis aids collaborative visioning

In today's fast-paced business environment, companies need innovative strategies to stay competitive. This study, involving a partnership with Sorgenia, an Italian utility company, delves into how employees can collaboratively converge towards a new strategic vision through synthesis. The collaborative process, developed as part of the IDeaLs research program, engaged 60 employees in articulating a new vision for energy services. Through surveys and interviews, the study explored how individuals perceive this collaborative process and the emotional and behavioral impacts it has on them.

Aiming for alignment through synthesis

The purpose of this research was to investigate how people perceive a collaborative process based on synthesis when creating a new strategic vision. The goal was to understand the emotional and behavioral engagement of employees as they interact and integrate different perspectives, aiming to foster a sense of agreement and innovative outcomes.

"Most studies on innovation focus on the creative side of the process: how to create more ideas. Yet, in our current world overflown by information, creating new ideas is the easiest part. What is challenging is how to bring a complex variety of perspective into a more comprehensive and shared view - in other words: synthesis " said Roberto Verganti of the House of Innovation. "This study strongly suggests that synthesis implies negotiating values and meanings. It highlights the emotional aspects of collaboration and how they drive the innovation process."

Key research findings

  • Synthesis is not just an analytical process of combining things. It requires significant creativity to see what is behind two (or more) different perspectives.
  • Presenting and defending personal ideas can cause cautiousness and skepticism towards others' contributions. Synthesis happens more effectively when teams move from judgmental attitudes (typical or presentational contexts) to a creative attitude (typical of co-creation).
  • Contradiction tasks, although challenging, are engaging and deepen the understanding of the vision.

Towards more meaningful innovation

This research highlights the importance of synthesis in collaborative visioning processes. The findings suggest that leveraging contradictions and actively engaging in the enhancement of others' ideas can lead to more meaningful and innovative outcomes. Future research should explore how these collaborative dynamics can be applied across different industries to further understand their impact on innovation.

Meet the researchers

  • Silvia Magnanini: School of Management Engineering, Politecnico di Milano
  • Daniel Trabucchi: School of Management Engineering, Politecnico di Milano
  • Roberto Verganti: School of Management Engineering, Politecnico di Milano; House of Innovation, Stockholm School of Economics, Stockholm, Sweden
House of Innovation Innovation Article Journal Publication Research