Perspectives on Innovation as Form and Function Creating Process


  • Tobias Kroner University of Vienna


Throughout time new things appear in the world. Be it an adaptation in evolution, the creation of a work of art, an idea or behavior that a person has not had or performed before, or a cutting-edge product, a cognitive system always has to interact with its world and through that very interaction something new is created that has not been there before. Innovation processes are both about the emergence of form (morphogenesis) and function (functiogenesis). Different disciplines think differently about how the New comes to be and construe novelty creation in various ways. Reviewing literature from fields that include evolutionary theory, design studies, and developmental psychology, the following research questions were investigated: What makes novelty arise in the world? How can what is not-yet there be realized?

Arguably, the conditions of what can come about next are always already there in the present. This ontology of latent future potentials is captured in the emergent innovation framework [1]. The framework yields an enactive understanding of bringing forth innovation through continuous interplay with the environment and shifts the focus from the cognitive agent itself to the relationship it has with its yet-to-be world. Innovation processes and their neighboring concepts like creativity, imagination, exaptation, and aspiration are then not simply traits that a cognitive system has or events that happen to it but rather a ‘dance’ with the unfolding future. Namely, it is an act of creative undergoing where the world designs back on the cognitive agent as well [2].

Taking this view of co-creation and co-becoming as its ontological basis, the paper takes an interdisciplinary approach, contrasting and comparing multiple perspectives on innovation while searching for underlying principles across them. The resulting transdisciplinary concept map depicts the relationships, similarities, and differences between personal, organizational, and organismic innovation and the understandings of innovation processes across epistemic bodies. An accompanying glossary serves to elucidate the concepts further. Synthesizing current literature on innovation in its different forms, this paper can serve as introductory overview for researchers who approach the problematic from their discipline and wish to broaden their conceptual repertoire.


[1] M. F. Peschl, “Theory U: From potentials and co-becoming to bringing forth emergent innovation and shaping a thriving future. On what it means to ‘learn from the future as it emerges’,” in Advances in Presencing, O. Gunnlaugson and W. Brendel, Eds. Vancouver: Trifoss Business Press, 2020, pp. 65–112.

[2] T. Ingold, “The creativity of undergoing”, Pragmatics and Cognition, vol. 22, no. 1, pp. 124–139, 2014.