On the Use of Pattern Interruption and Self-observation in Human Systems for Transformative Innovation

Roger Burton
Center for Teaching and Learning
California Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo, CA 93407
Email: rburton@calpoly.edu

Lizabeth Schlemer
Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering
California Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo, CA 93407
Email: lschleme@calpoly.edu

Linda Vanasupa
Materials Engineering Department
California Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo, CA 93407
Email: lvanasup@calpoly.edu

Abstract
This paper describes what we believe is the disposition required for transformational innovation. Innovating in this domain relies on interrupting existing patterns. The interruption of existing patterns requires the conscious recognition of patterns. Such recognition requires an active practice of self-observation. Though self-observation does not necessarily require a collective process, it is served by encountering the diversity of views present in such a process. Innovation in this sense then consists of a fundamental identity shift in the human system and the innovators themselves. Unlike the processes of problem solving and process improvement, transformational innovation requires insight into the individual and collective attention of the designers. It also allows access to unexamined mental models and apparent cause and effect relationships. The praxis of transformational innovation within organizations looks like an active practice of reflection, experimentation and learning within the human system. We explain the theoretical perspective, suggest a protocol to begin experimenting with self observation for the purpose of pattern interruption, summarize preliminary results from a year-long process involving over 25 university agents in such a change process, and comment on the limitations and risks in the protocol.

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