Concept fetishism and leather skirts

So a fetish is a god we create and then forget that we created and get down to serious worshipping of.  There’s a rather good Doctor Who story from 1976, that was going to be called “The Day God Went Mad” but ended up being called “The Face of Evil” that outlines this with added flesh-eating worms and Louise Jameson in a leather mini-skirt.

Marx of course used the notion of a “fetish” to talk about “commodity fetishism” – you can read more here. Or this from wikipedia

commodity fetishism is the perception of the social relationships involved in production, not as relationships among people, but as economic relationships among the money and commodities exchanged in market trade. As such, commodity fetishism transforms the subjective, abstract aspects of economic value into objective, real things that people believe have intrinsic value

So the obvious problem for ideas-mongers is that they fall in love with the categorisation tools that they invent, and mistake the map for the territory (insert Borges reference about here).

Canon laser photocopiers can help us here;

Another example is the Canon laser photocopier which produced digital signals that could be electronically digitally processed, stored or transmitted simultaneously to a number of distant slave printers. The analog system of its conventional predecessors were unable to network. The new technology was the application of a laser and electronic information processing step inserted between the original optical and print systems. The digital processing subsystem allowed the production of a technologically new laser digital copier. Utterback would label the movement from analog to digital technology a market broadening, competence enhancing, radical innovation. Yet for Rothwell and Gardiner, radical technology embedded in a reinnovation does not constitute a radical innovation, instead just a redesign on an ‘innovation’. Thus, they would label this innovation an incremental innovation with a subassembly change. Kleinschmidt and Cooper would label it a moderate innovation, and to Abernathy and Clark the copier technology evolution is a regular innovation.
(Garcia and Calantone, 2002: 118)

 

So, I offer a label to help us remember that the axes we create can end up being axes we grind (see what I did there?).  I offer the world… “concept fetishism”.

 

 

References

Garcia, R. and Calantone, R. 2002. A critical look at technological innovation typology and innovativeness terminology: a literature review. Journal of Product Innovation Management, Vol. 19, pp.110-132.

And those references

  • J.M. Utterback Mastering the dynamics of innovation, Harvard Business School Press, Boston, MA (1996)
  • R. Rothwell, P. Gardiner Reinnovation and robust designs: producer and user benefitsJournal of Marketing Management, 3 (3) (1988), pp. 372–387
  • E.J. Kleinschmidt, R.G. Cooper The impact of product innovativeness on performance Journal of Product Innovation Management, 8 (1991), pp. 240–251
  • W.J. Abernathy, K.B. Clark Innovation. mapping the winds of creative destruction Research Policy, 14 (1) (1985), pp. 3–22
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Video: The Greening of Industry/Eco-innovation

More or less the script I burble. Stuff in square brackets didn’t get said or referenced, because the damn thing was already 5 and a half minutes…

The whole field of “green innovation” is a Rorschach test. We see in the blobs what we want and need to see. Capitalism mutating into something ecologically friendly, capitalism wrecking the planet. The system working, the system shirking… This video throws out questions raised by the idea of “eco-innovation.” It also gives a quick overview of the changing academic perspectives on “the greening of industry”. It is of course, a work in progress, and if you think I am wrong, lemme know marcmywords@gmail.com

So what is eco-innovation, anyhow?

Kemp and Pearson (2007) define it as

the production, assimilation or exploitation of a product, production process, service or management or business method that is novel to the organisation (developing or adopting it) and which results, throughout its life cycle, in a reduction of environmental risk, pollution and other negative impacts of resources use (including energy use) compared to relevant alternatives”.


So why do companies “go green”?

  • Is it simply to greenwash, to get the eco-nuts off their backs, and onto softer targets?
  • Is it a bargaining chip against the risk of proposed regulations that would be more stringent?
  • Is it an opportunity to attract and retain staff who Care About These Things?
  • Is it for competitive advantage (the Porter hypothesis). Especially a first mover advantage [The timing of incorporation of regulatory signals in the corporate structure and strategy is important for determining the relationship between regulation and innovation. Early compliance has been linked to competitive advantage (Porter and Van der Linde, 1995; Rothwell, 1992) as companies develop compliance capabilities, which, in turn result into early mover advantages. (Paraskevopoulou, 2012: 1064)  [I should also have said something about simply saving production costs here, but didn’t]

  • Is it to have a planet left to sell stuff on?

Of course, “it depends” – It might be any of those, any combination of those. It depends on the particular industry, the market, the governments and states, the times.

There’s no one simple answer. There are lots of complicated questions though!

Who engages in eco-innovation – is it the “little guy” – the niche actor trying to save the world or patent some cool stuff and then get bought out? Do the little guys have the cash and the organizational capacities – smart enough staff, good enough absorptive capacity? [“most literature on eco-innovation is focused on large mature firms, practically neglecting SMEs (Schiederig et al., 2012).” (Diaz-Garcia et al. 2015:16)]

Is it the big beasts, the elephants trying to tap dance in search of new customers, or just to keep the ones they’ve got? Are they too drunk on past successes? Under what circumstances will pressure groups scare them into acting?

It depends.

How does this “eco-innovation” play out?

Is it incremental, constant small refinements of a dominant design, or is it radical and potentially competence-destroying?

It depends.

Where does it come from?

Does it come from a “laboratory” or is it user-lead (insert guff about prosumers here).

It depends

Does it come from “transition regions” or “industrial districts”?

It depends.

What kind of innovation are we talking about?

  • The same product used differently?
  • A different product used in the “same” way?
  • A new product used in a different way?

What of the “rebound effect”, can we escape Jevons’ Paradox?

There’s a bunch of other questions too.

What happens at the level of an industry (over and above individual firms jostling for advantage. Are there industries that can’t plausibly re-orientate? (How) will they fight to the death?

Which regulations in a “policy mix” might drive faster innovation in the “right” direction?

What are the trade-offs between “green” and “responsible” and so on?

What about innovations that help sustain an ultimately unsustainable system (man)? Are they ‘green’? Says who?

All good questions – what does the academic literature have to say? How long have you got? For now, this –

according to Penna, 2014 the literatures can be broken down into three periods, with an expansion from a largely firm-based economics/costs model between the 60s and 80s,

As Hoffman’s work shows, corporate environmentalism emerged in the late 1960s and 1970s in direct response to the increasing government regulation following various environmental disasters.

By the 1990s things had evolved into “environmental innovation can create win-wins” – having your cake and eating it too – (ecological modernisation etc)

A third wave takes a more sophisticated approach that brings in organisation theory, innovation studies, evolutionary economics, neo-institutional theory, and looks at an entire field (including governmental and non-governmental players).

In their excellent “Climate Change, Capitalism, and Corporations Processes of Creative Self-DestructionChris Wright and Daniel Nyberg argue that corporate environmentalism provides a way for corporations to incorporate critique and respond by justifying their actions (‘we can be trusted to be good corporate citizens and environmental managers through self-regulation, market logics and tech innovation’)

So, it’s complicated and “it depends”.

What would actual greening look like? There’s a whole bunch of terms – circular economy, closed loop, steady state, degrowth etc. All of them anxiety management devices, bargaining in the face of a remorseless Green Reaper.

Oh well.

Those images

The battery powered car

stephaniemcmillan.org

Painting chimneys

https://oneplanet-sustainability.org/2013/11/21/corporate-sustainability-profit-motive-and-intention-in-greenwash/

Porter hypothesis slide from
Rennings, K. Symposium on The Porter Hypothesis at 20

http://www.slideshare.net/SustainableProsperity/klaus-rennings-presentation-the-porter-hypothesis-at-20-can-environmental-regulation-enhance-innovation-and-competitiveness-june-2010

Prosumer

https://curiositykilledtheconsumer.wordpress.com/2012/06/02/do-you-prosume-how-the-do-it-yourself-trend-changes-the-relation-between-producer-and-consumer/

Jevons Paradox

http://www.slideshare.net/rakutentech/rakuten-techconf2014-f6-changing-the-behavior-of-it

Trolling Esso for the shits and giggles.

Oil companies. Doncha just love them?  And they spend a lot of time trying to shape the public debate, shape the public mind.  BP isn’t doing arts sponsorship because they’re a charity you know.  Shell have been brilliant at their advertising for decades (see this post and this post).

Esso (aka Exxon) have some new “journeys that matter” campaign, that tries to make us nostalgic for the 1970s.  So on my way home to be under the cat, I did a little light bite-back.

esso

Exxon were one of the founders of the Global Climate Coalition, which successfully slowed and basically scuppered international co-operation on climate change/emissions reductions, in the crucial 1989-2000 period.  They funded so many denialist groups that even the Royal Society (not exactly pitch-fork wielders) politely asked them to knock it off.

 

“Hey Esso. One journey that would have mattered was the journey to decarbonisation. But thanks to the actions Exxon took in the 1980s and 1990s in opposition to climate action, you and your sock-puppet denialist chums have made sure we are locked into a high-carbon emitting energy system. So now the only journey for this species it to hell in a handcart. Thank you so much.”

Proposed script for video on “the Greening of Industry”

The whole field of “green innovation” is a Rorschach test. We see in the blobs what we want and need to see. Capitalism mutating into something ecologically friendly, capitalism wrecking the planet.  The system working, the system shirking…  This video throws out questions raised by the idea of “eco-innovation.”  It also gives a quick overview of the changing academic perspectives on “the greening of industry”.   It is of course, a work in progress, and if you think I am wrong, lemme know marcmywords@gmail.com
So why do companies “go green”? 

  • Is it simply to greenwash, to get the eco-nuts off their backs, and onto softer targets?
  • Is it a bargaining chip against proposed regulations that would be more stringent?
  • Is it to attract and retain staff who Care About These Things?
  • Is it for competitive advantage (the Porter hypothesis)
  • Is it to have a planet left to sell stuff on?

Of course, “it depends” – It might be any of those, any combination of those. It depends on the particular industry, the market, the governments and states, the times.

There’s no one simple answer.  There are lots of complicated questions though!

Who engages in eco-innovation – is it the “little guy” – the niche actor trying to save the world or patent some cool stuff and then get bought out?
Is it the big beasts, the elephants trying to tap dance in search of new customers, or just to keep the ones they’ve got?

It depends.
How does this “eco-innovation” play out?  Is it  incremental, constant small refinements of a dominant design, or is it radical and potentially competence-destroying?

It depends.

 

Where does it come from? Does it come from a “laboratory” or is it user-lead (insert guff about prosumers here)

It depends.
What kind of innovation are we talking about?

  • The same product used differently?
  • A different product used in the “same” way?
  • A new product used in a different way?

What of the “rebound  effect”, can we escape Jevons Paradox?

There’s a bunch of other questions too.

What happens at the level of an industry (over and above individual firms jostling for advantage. Are there industries that can’t plausible re-orientate?  (How) will they fight to the death.

Which regulations in a “policy mix” might drive faster innovation in the “right” direction?

What are the trade-offs between “green” and “responsible” and so on?

What about innovations that help sustain an ultimately unsustainable system (man)?  Are they ‘green’?  Says who?

All good questions – what does the academic literature have to say?  How long have you got?  For now, this –

according to Penna, 2014 the literatures can be broken down into three periods, with an expansion from a largely firm-based economics/costs model between the 60s and 80s,

greening of industry

Figure 1: Phases of the Greening of Industry literature From Penna, (2014:5)

As Hoffman’s work shows, corporate environmentalism emerged in the  late 1960s and 1970s in direct response to the increasing governmentt regulation following various environmental disasters.

By the 1990s things had evolved into  “environmental innovation can create win-wins” – having your cake and eating it too – i(ecological modernisation etc)

A third wave takes a more sophisticated approach that brings in organisation theory, innovation studies, evolutionary economics, neo-institutional theory, and looks at an entire field (including governmental and non-governmental players).

In their excellent “  Wright and Nyberg argue that corporate environmentalism provides a way for corporations to incorporate critique and respond by justifying their actions (‘we can be trusted to be good corporate citizens and environmental managers through self-regulation, market logics and tech innovation’)

What would actual greening look like?  There’s a whole bunch of terms – circular economy, closed loop, steady state, degrowth etc.  All of them anxiety management devices, bargaining in the face of a remorseless Green Reaper.

Oh well.

 

WILL BE PUTTING IN THE REFERENCES TO THE IMAGES HERE TONIGHT.

Video: Issue lifecycles, a not-even-beginner’s guide

First, a public health warning. I am not yet clear enough on the distinction(s) between issue attention cycles and issue lifecycles to make this video. I’m doing it, therefore, to get Shot. Down. In. Flames. Then, if I survive the crash, I will make a – better- sequel. How’s that for dialectic and iterative?

Issue attention cycles follow attention – which fluctuates because critical events/focussing events/triggering events are usually infrequent and unpredictable, cannot be easily exploited and after a time lose their impact (dog bites man is not a news story). And journalists get tired of writing the same stories, readers of reading them. So when a new shiny issue comes along…

But the issue is now on the agendas of three key groups

a) civil society – social movement organisations and scientists, and maybe some hacks

b) corporations, an industry and their allies, who keep a watching brief

c) the state – the bureaucracy and the politicians. The latter need to be seen to be responsive, and the latter will want an ongoing policy process as a fig-leaf in case the issue blows up in their face again. They can’t afford to have been seen to be doing nothing…

So the issue has its own, slower, dynamic. As Flanagan and Uyarra, (2016: 182) point out – “Policy dynamics will interact with other relevant dynamics – electoral, budget and planning cycles, economic cycles, organisational life cycles – each with their own logic and imperatives”

It will bimble along, as advocacy coalitions slowly form, policy-subsystems get owned, problem, politics and policy streams trickle each on their merry way.

There will be flare-ups – issue entrepreneurs get lucky, smart or both. New disasters happen, followed by marches or petitions. Reports that were commissioned do indeed get written, and not ALL of them can be released at 5pm on a Friday afternoon just before Christmas….

Politicians are sometimes forced by coalition partners in knife-edge minority governments to NOT keep punting an issue into the long grass.

Meanwhile, corporations are thinking about which stakeholders to use as human shields, and perhaps even cleaning up their act, if that is the smarter and cheaper thing to do. And don’t be forgetting – corporations and industries always have a LOT on their plates – As Clark et al (2015: 5) put it. “Issue life cycle literature addresses two important aspects of how issues are managed : the cumulative effects of a single issue over time and the cumulative effect of multiple issues affecting the same firm over time.”

In all this, remember, the existence of a policy process enables politicians etc to say that matters are indeed ‘in hand’ and that there’s “nothing to see here”.

Some issues just fade away – “solved” unintentionally by technological, demographic or social changes. Others flare up occasionally a bit like herpes. Others become chronic, and slowly fatal. Like drug-resistant tuberculosis; Well, HELLO climate change.

comments? Please email me at marcmywords at gmail.com

Those references

Clark, C. Bryant, A. and Griffin, J. 2015. Firm Engagement and Social Issue Salience, Consensus and Contestation. Business & Society, doi:10.1177/0007650315613966

Flanagan, K., & Uyarra, E. 2016. Four dangers in innovation policy studies – and how to avoid them. Industry and Innovation. DOI:10.1080/13662716.2016.1146126. Publication link: 31cea8d3-1f0b-4027-ac0a-bec6587267ab

Proposed script for video on Issue Lifecycles Literature

Comments please on this draft script for a video on Issue Lifecycles Literature (see here for the Issue Attention Cycles one)  You can also email me at marcmywords@gmail.com

 

First, a public health warning.  I am not yet clear enough on the distinction(s) between issue attention cycles and issue lifecycles to make this video.  I’m doing it, therefore, to get Shot. Down. In. Flames.    Then, if I survive the crash, I will make a – better- sequel.  How’s that for dialectic and iterative?

Issue attention cycles follow attention – which fluctuates because critical events/focussing events/triggering events are usually infrequent and unpredictable, cannot be easily exploited and after a time lose their impact  (dog bites man is not a news story).  And journalists get tired of writing the same stories, readers of reading them.  So when a new shiny issue comes along…

But the issue is now on the agendas of three key groups

a) civil society – social movement organisations and scientists, and maybe some hacks

b) corporations, an industry and their allies, who keep a watching brief

c) the state – the bureaucracy and the politicians.  The latter need to be seen to be responsive, and the latter will want an ongoing policy process as a fig-leaf in case the issue blows up in their face again.  They can’t afford to have been seen to be doing nothing…

So the issue has its own, slower, dynamic. As Flanagan and Uyarra, (2016: 182) point out – “Policy dynamics will interact with other relevant dynamics – electoral, budget and planning cycles, economic cycles, organisational life cycles – each with their own logic and imperatives

It will bimble along, as advocacy coalitions slowly form, policy-subsystems get owned, problem, politics and policy streams trickle each on their merry way.

There will be flare-ups – issue entrepreneurs get lucky, smart or both.  New disasters happen, followed by marches or petitions.    Reports that were commissioned do indeed get written, and not ALL of them can be released at 5pm on a Friday afternoon just before Christmas….

Politicians are sometimes forced by coalition partners in knife-edge minority governments to NOT keep punting an issue into the long grass.

Meanwhile, corporations are thinking about which stakeholders to use as human shields, and perhaps even cleaning up their act, if that is the smarter and cheaper thing to do. And don’t be forgetting – corporations and industries always have a LOT on their plates – As Clark et al (2015: 5) put it. “Issue life cycle literature addresses two important aspects of how issues are managed : the cumulative effects of a single issue over time and the cumulative effect of multiple issues affecting the same firm over time.

In all this, remember, the existence of a policy process enables politicians etc to say that matters are indeed ‘in hand’ and that there’s “nothing to see here”.

Some issues just fade away – “solved” unintentionally by technological, demographic or social changes.  Others flare up occasionally a bit like herpes.  Others become chronic, and slowly fatal.  Like drug-resistant tuberculosis;  Well, HELLO climate change.

Video: Issue Attention Cycle beginner’s guide

So, a very crude (but not rude) video about the Issue Attention Cycle.  Done more for my own benefit – to nail a couple of things and get back into the video-making habit.  I’ve gotten rusty…  Comments welcome, of course…

Script:

This guy is Ibn Khaldun. He was an historian in the 14th century. He suggested that one generation of nomadic warriors might conquer a complacent city, their children might be able to defend it, but their grandchildren, soft from luxury, would be unable to defend it from a generation of nomadic warriors, whose children… you get the idea. The big wheel keeps on turning. Fast forward to 1972…

And American political scientist Anthony Downs puns on his name to produce Up and Down with Ecology: The issue attention cycle

He suggested a five stage model for, well, attention to an issue.

Stage one – he labelled the “pre-problem phase” – nobody but a few scientists or activists are much bothered

In stage two “alarmed discovery and euphoric enthusiasm” something happens – a scandal, disaster, a book gets published – some kind of what is now called “focusing event”. And the issue does get into the newspaper, or onto the TV news,

Stage three is called “realizing the cost of significant progress” – there’s a gradual grokking of the cost of “solving” the problem

Stage four sees a “gradual decline of intense public interest” as people realise the actual costs, others get discouraged, others still feel threatened, others still bored. And anyway, other issues are newer, shinier

The final “post-problem” stage sees the issue in limbo, with occasional “spasmodic recurrences” of interest. But the level is higher than it was at the pre-problem stage, because not everyone has

It’s a beautiful, simple, intuitive heuristic. And of course, therefore, quite problematic.

Why do some issues take off and others don’t? Do issues get stuck at a particular stage, or reverse? Why? How? Are there other possible outcomes?

Mahon and Waddock (1992) produced a graph that offered different possible (non)-resolutions of an issue, with a return to apathy (the solution has ‘worked’, at least in the view of those who want it off the policy agenda), ‘confidence in solution’ and ‘failure- intensified concern).>

Bigelow et al (1993:24 ) note that “ issues may progress recursively, cycling back and forth through the stages” and warn that such issues may in fact not be resolved.

Combining issue attention cycle literature with the “greening of industry” literature, Frank Geels and Caetano Penna developed the Dialectic Issue LifeCycle Model, the DILC

It delves into what different actors – those trying to push the issue up the political agenda and those trying to push it down – do within the five phases. Also – and this is crucial – what sorts of research and development might a company – or an industry – take to try to come up with a neat and de-politicising ‘techno-fix’?

So, issues – in the sense of a socially constructed worry – can come and go – while the underlying problem just builds and builds…

Does the rise of social media and Web2.0 actually change the issue attention cycle? If so, how, when, why? All good questions. Watch this space, perhaps…