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Contextual Invention: A multi-disciplinary approach to develop business opportunities and design solutions


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Abstract: This paper describes a new research methodology, which brings together ethnographic, business, design and technical research in a focused way. Various combinations of these disciplines have been used together in the past, both inside HP Labs and in the wider industry. However, all four disciplines are rarely harnessed together in the pursuit of innovation and new business opportunities. We aim to do this in a principled user-centered way, by using a deep understanding of user and cultural needs to drive design ideas, business modeling and technological investigations. This approach can be seen as an extension of Contextual Design in which social and cultural factors are considered in the deployment of an existing technology. We call this approach Contextual Invention because the aim of the social science research is to inspire and generate new technology inventions with high social and business value. To develop and test this new approach, HP Labs India initiated a project towards understanding user needs and deriving concepts, at the same time providing sustainable business models for the end customer. The project was successful in creating business opportunities and design concepts that were at the intersection of user needs, design, business models and technology feasibility. Notes: David M. Frohlich, HP Labs Bristol, UK.

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