Designing an Insight Salon

Designing an Insight Salon

Salons emerged in the 18th century during a period of radical social and commercial upheaval: a period we could call modernity. Like today, this was an era of change: global centres of powers were transforming; new commercial infrastructures were being established; and society was being ideologically restructured from a world based on religion to one based on reason.

Salons offer a space for diverse and marginalised voices to be heard – historically this has been women, artists, and writers. They are semi-formal and offer an alternative to corporate and academic settings. We can think of them as intimate spaces for deep, meaningful conversations. Ideas move freely, and attendees seek to improve the art of asking questions, developing empathy, and listening to others.

Salons, and other spaces where a cultural/literary sensibility operates (such as coffeeshops), enrich the soil of our collective moral consciousness. It is from this rich moral soil that ethical frameworks with strong roots can grow. We can think of them as contributing to the molecular task of raising a generalised collective awareness of shared problems. They can become brands in themselves, develop internal politics, and often become politically active and create manifestos.

A canvas for designing one is below. The aspects of the salon are: the articulation of the purpose for coming together; the keywords and concepts to be explored; the atmosphere, rhythm and mood that the salon will evoke; the philosophical and ideological manifesto that will shape the discussion; the specific questions and discussion points that will provoke conversation; and the documenting, archiving and dissemination of the discussion.

The rest of this page offers some reflective 'fragments' on the salon model:

The Problem

New forms of social arrangement and communication are needed to help us navigate an increasingly VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) environment

~

New forms are also needed to embrace the meta-trends of 'civic business' and 'responsible enterprise' which will see politics and business become tighter knit

~

Business will be required to conduct 'mission' based innovation. For example: focusing on areas of technology that bolster human contributions, not areas that automate or down skill humans

~

A space is needed to address 'creative destruction' (link to glossary): the 'wicked problem' at the heart of innovation

Decoding the Salon

The 'salon' emerged during a period of similar radical social upheaval . In the 18th century, global power was transforming, a new commercial infrastructure was being established, and society was being ideologically restructured from a world based on religion to one based on reason

~

Salons were a place for diverse and marginalised voices (women, artists, writers) to be heard

~

A salon is an intimate space for a deep, meaningful conversation. Where we improve our art of asking questions, developing empathy, and listening to others

~

They are a space to cultivate the moral consciousness from which ethical frameworks can develop

Salon + Innovation

An insight salon matches the requirements of the next generation of innovators, strategists and designers who are tasked with answering a new type of question

~

One such question is 'what is a business opportunity?' in our transformed world

~

An insight salon offers an opportunity to uncover new entry points for a plurality of people, particularly from creative/cultural areas, to contribute to the innovation process

~

The purpose of an insight salon: thinking through complex ideas; giving them the time they need; building strong relationships and collaborative collectives; reciprocating with other people in creative ways

~

As the insight salon concept develops, we can expect old words like 'guild' and 'craft' to take on reinvigorated meaning. And we can expect new words like 'emergence' and 'collectivism' to gather stronger connotations.

~

The insight salon model challenges 'extractive' models of conducting research (where a conversation is similar to a mining exercise). Extraction is replaced by the principle of reciprocity

~

The output of a salon could be new ways of working and new projects

Innovation Salon vs Innovation Workshop

We can distinguish an insight salon from an innovation workshop. The latter is a place to build and prototype, a salon is a place to explore and connect

~

The strategy of a workshop is to rapidly generate as many ideas as possible, and then to discriminate between them. A salon is for meditating upon complex questions

~

A salon is more like a dinner table than a workshop. We can evoke the image of Michelangelo sat at dinner with the Medici's

The dynamics of an Innovation Salon

The insight salon can learn from cultural 'scenes' (such as art and music scenes): these are places of mutual appreciation; with acceptance of outside views; shared success; rapid exchange of tools and methods; and friendly competition between members

~

Participants of a salon should be considered 'collaborators' working on collective creativity

~

A salon should be pleasurable and relaxing for participants. But it should also defamiliarize and discomfort. It should surprise and delight

~

A focus on using fun and engaging tactics to create transformative and experiential affects should be cultivated

Money

Money exchanges made within a salon should be fair. They should challenge the existing consultancy model, working to distribute opportunity equally

~

Salons are fundamentally cultural in nature. This makes us recognise cultural interdependency. For example, a struggling artist might inspire a product innovator. This should be recognised economically

~

The power dynamic of the 'client/supplier' relationship needs to be recalibrated for a salon engagement to improve human interaction

Planning

An insight salon should be centred on philosophical concepts, designed aesthetically, and narrated as a (non)fictional story - this increases engagement

~

Rhythm, pattern, tempo and flow all need to be considered. The right communicative rhythm needs to be established. A salon should subvert the Silicon Valley ethos of 'move fast and break things'

~

A salon can be divided into 'divergent' and 'convergent' parts: divergent can focus on generating questions that can be explored, and convergent can focus on new ways to explore them

The design of an Innovation Salon

If held digitally, the salon can experiment with the affordances of digital tools. For example, creating shared worksheets in Google Docs; collaborating on Miro boards; using Slack messaging and channels etc

~

A salon can be programmed with activities, these will depend on factors such as: duration of salon; location; number of attendees; familiarity of collaborators.

~

It is likely that concepts from immersive theatre, genre theory and other conceptual/experiential areas will seep into future designs of the innovation salon

Comments

Success! Your account is fully activated, you now have access to all content.
Success! Your billing info is updated.
Billing info update failed.
Close