Foreword – Innoliteracy


Our time is rich in complex problems. Regardless of whether they are faced by the private sector CEO experiencing new technologies undermining current business models or by the public sector leader failing to create change for her citizens, matching her hopes and aspirations, they both search for adequate approaches and methods, which can help them navigate and reach their goals amidst a complex and turbulent reality.

Steinar Valade-Amland acknowledges in INNOLITERACY that our time is also rich in management literature claiming to offer the right answers. A rapidly growing and barely transparent fan of propositions claims to offer exactly what it is that the modern leader needs to create the needed results, despite whatever difficult context he finds himself in. Most often, the method comes first – then the problem has to be molded to fit in.

The possibly most valuable contribution of INNOLITERACY is that the author persists in putting the problem – and the reflections needed to understand it – first. This in itself is not new; one of my predecessors at Danish Design Centre, Jens Bernsen,1 published his book entitled The Problem Comes First, making the same point nearly 25 years ago. However, what is new is the focus on the ability to reflect and the genuine curiosity of the leader, as Steinar Valade-Amland does in his book. And – as a natural consequence hereof – acknowledge that the key lies in identifying the “right problem,” and thereafter, the right set of methods to address and solve it.

The American philosopher John Dewey2 once wrote that the acknowledgment of the fact, the first step toward resolving a problem, is genuine curiosity and an urge to research. The design methods and approaches described by Valade-Amland in INNOLITERACY lean closely up against John Dewey’s insistent claim that thinking and doing cannot be seen as independent processes, but only as each other’s prerequisites. Only through the creation of prototypes and user testing – iteration after iteration – the hypotheses and the framing of the problem are validated. The very specific approach of designers simply contributes to translate abstract notions of a problem, ideas, and concepts into tangible representations of form and material, and of an aesthetic that people can interact with. When the context is complex and the problems are wicked, this iterative approach involving real human beings, systems, and organizations is the only one way that new knowledge and insights is acquired.

Thus, the ability to make one’s way toward new knowledge, learning, and reflections becomes a central element in fostering innovation and change in organizations. My experience is that it also requires a combination of courage, patience, and genuine curiosity to allow for the space and time for true reflection. If anything at all is under pressure in our time, it is the space – and the pauses – to cater to what is needed from organizations, leaders, and development staff. We lack both the systemic and the more random facilitation of reflection and of acquiring insights. Demands of performance, new digital media, and our organizational structures simply do not allow for the space needed to foster true innovation. It is my hope that the readers of INNOLITERACY will acknowledge how important prerequisites of space for reflection is to succeed at fostering the changes for the better world that we all dream of.

Christian Bason3, PhD

CEO, Danish Design Centre


1J. Bernsen. (1989). Design – The Problem Comes First (Copenhagen, Denmark: ­Danish Design Centre).

2J. Dewey. (1938). Logic: The Theory Of inquiry (New York, NY: Henry Holt and Company).

3Author of “Leading Public Sector Innovation” (2010), “Velfærdsinnovation (Welfare Innovation)” (2010), “Design for Policy” (2014), “Form Fremtiden (Form the Future)” (2016), “Leading Public Design” (2017).