Innovation is a common term in business today, some say overused, and often mysterious. Taking a look at the current Innovation landscape and one theme will dominate: ‘technology’. Today when we talk about technology we talk about computing, electronics and all things digital.  However, ‘technology’ used to be associated with ‘useful arts’ and included things such as printing, beer making and leatherwork.  Interestingly the root of the word technology identifies with craft and skill, with no mention of electrons at all!

What if we put the idea of ‘craft’ back into innovation? What value can craft add to innovation? I propose it can add a lot of value if we look at how innovation is done rather than focusing on the what. In his 2016 book “Innovating A Doer’s Manifesto …” MIT’s Luis Perez-Breva proposes that innovation is something that can be learned:  “The process of creating what eventually becomes an innovation is something you can learn and become better at through practice.” This is exciting because it helps to de-mystify innovation and make it accessible to everyone. 

Here is where the idea of craft can be useful. If we look at how a craftsperson works-we could say their practice, we can use this idea of ‘practice’ to learn how to innovate. Peter J Denning & Robert Dunham, innovation & entrepreneur writers also suggest that innovation is a personal skill that can be learned and advanced through practice in their book “The innovator’s way”.

In April 2019 I was pleased to help organise an event called the Craft Innovation Salon which brought together a diverse group of people from the worlds of craft, industry and academia.  This event was made possible by the collaboration of the UK’s Crafts Council and University of Arts London. During the day we explored this idea of How we do things by thinking about mindsets and skills, and later how these might be applied in partnerships between craftspeople and industry. 

Some of the themes from the day can be seen in the illustrations by Josie of Studio Jo Jo shown above. Participants enjoyed hands on activities to promote discussion, and the diverse mix of people.  Overall there was a lot of appetite for further discussion in the area of Craft Innovation. So next time you hear the word innovation, perhaps you can think about the role that craft could play?

Looking Glass while digital in approach has been curated with the intention to showcase craft across a wide platform of mediums – reflecting creativity, innovation and inspiration from a variety of visual perspectives. This ethos organically led to a conversation with invited guest writer – Ann Marie Newton.

 Ann Marie has a career spanning over 20 years in the Textile & Fashion industries, this includes roles as a scientist, designer and technologist. Her career has been based in the USA & UK but has included travel to many countries in Asia.  Having just completed her MA in Innovation Management at the renowned Central Saint Martins college in London, Ann Marie is now pursuing her interests in workshop facilitation, writing, weaving & all things creative including setting up her freelance company Creative Orange Studio which reflects her love of the colour orange. Ann Marie would love to hear from you, please email her at AMC@creativeorangestudio.com.