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Authentic Evaluation of Radical Innovations: A Conceptual Framework



The concept of authenticity is discussed in the literature regarding product design through the perspectives of users and designers (Liao & Ma, 2009; Kristav, 2016) along with others that evaluate the phenomena through discussions on user experiences (Reisinger & Steiner, 2006). Several studies describe authenticity as a concept that mostly appears in initial examples of product contexts (Kristav, 2016). These products, which represent a starting point, are named as radically innovative products in design literature (Verganti, 2009). Design-driven innovations result in changes in the meanings of the products; radical changes in product meanings can occur through merger of existing product contexts (Norman & Verganti, 2014-b). Therefore, users can have expectancies related to their experiences on the merged product contexts. Analysis of these expectancies can be important at the initiation of design-driven radical innovations, their fulfilments can have role in product adoption (Desmet & Hekkert, 2007; Hassenzahl, 2005). In this study, the effects of authentic expectations on radical innovations and their evaluations will be discussed in theoretical basis through the studies in the literature, to provide a conceptual framework on the subject.
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Authentic Evaluation of Radical Innovations: A Conceptual
Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University, Architecture Faculty, Industrial Product Design Department,
The concept of authenticity is discussed in the literature regarding product design
through the perspectives of users and designers (Liao & Ma, 2009; Kristav, 2016) along
with others that evaluate the phenomena through discussions on user experiences
(Reisinger & Steiner, 2006). Several studies describe authenticity as a concept that
mostly appears in initial examples of product contexts (Kristav, 2016). These products,
which represent a starting point, are named as radically innovative products in design
literature (Verganti, 2009).
Design-driven innovations result in changes in the meanings of the products; radical
changes in product meanings can occur through merger of existing product contexts
(Norman & Verganti, 2014-b). Therefore, users can have expectancies related to their
experiences on the merged product contexts. Analysis of these expectancies can be
important at the initiation of design-driven radical innovations, their fulfilments can have
role in product adoption (Desmet & Hekkert, 2007; Hassenzahl, 2005).
In this study, the effects of authentic expectations on radical innovations and their
evaluations will be discussed in theoretical basis through the studies in the literature, to
provide a conceptual framework on the subject.
Keywords: Product design, radical innovation, design-driven innovation, authenticity
Estimation of consumer expectancies is considered crucial for adoption of products and
user satisfaction, in both initial and repeated usages of the products (Anderson, 1973;
Tsiros et. al, 2004). Some of the issues about user expectancies can be discussed
through authenticity concept, which also evaluates the satisfaction of users regarding
authentic evaluation of products (Kristav, 2016). This study focuses on authentic
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evaluation of radical innovation in products, in an effort to identify possible origins of
authentic expectations.
Discussions about radical innovations are recently focused on two aspects; technology
and meaning (Verganti, 2009). The new meanings in products are created mainly
through product design, and it is claimed that radical innovation of meanings can be
conducted through combination of previous product concepts (Langrish et. al, 2014).
Adoption and diffusion of radical meanings are studied and discussed in the literature
(Dell’Era et. al, 2008), since radical innovations are considered risky as their success rate
is considered low (Norman & Verganti, 2014-a). Therefore, estimation of user
expectation can be significant for these products in order to facilitate their adoption.
This study aims to provide a conceptual framework for evaluation of authenticity in
radical innovations. The focus is put on radical innovation of meanings, as they may
result from mergers of existing product contexts. The theoretical background for the
framework is built through former studies in the literature, to be followed by the
introduction and discussion of the framework.
Radical innovations are basically defined as major changes and initiation of new contexts
in products (Cooper & Press, 1995; Trott, 1998, Verganti, 2009). They are differentiated
from incremental innovations, which are defined as continuous and evolutionary (Yu &
Hang, 2010). Another concept in the literature that is close to radical innovation is
disruptive innovation, which is also referred in studies that discuss design-driven
innovations as a possible outcome of radical changes in product meanings (Verganti,
2008). However, one of the most stressed outcomes of disruptive innovations is major
changes in mainstream markets (Yu & Hang, 2010; Christensen, 1997). Since this study
concentrates on changes in product concepts through alteration of technology and
meaning, the term radical innovation is preferred rather than disruptive innovation to
emphasize the focus on product architecture, rather than market effect.
As mentioned before, in recent literature innovation is discussed in technology and
meaning dimensions (Verganti, 2011). Technology dimension mostly considers technical
improvements in a product (Varganti, 2009), in line with the prior orientation of
innovation literature, which mostly stresses importance of technological improvements in
formation of innovations (Cooper & Press, 1995; Trott, 1998). Radical innovations in
technology may or may not enhance the initiation of new meanings, however they mostly
set new standards in industry (Norman & Verganti, 2014-a).
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The meaning axis of product innovation is driven by product design. A change in the
meaning reflects an alteration in the way a product is perceived by users; this alteration
may also change the way the product is used (Verganti, 2009, Norman & Verganti, 2014-
a). As stated before a radical design-driven innovation, which enables initiation of a new
product meaning, can be derived from combination of prior product contexts (Norman &
Verganti, 2014-a). It is also stressed in the literature that radical innovation of meanings
cannot be derived through human-centred design methods (Verganti, 2009); this idea is
in-line with others which support that only lead-user involvement can help creation of
radical innovations (Urban & Von Hippel, 1988; Lilien et. al, 2002). These views stress
that ordinary users have a tendency to focus on current product contexts, therefore they
cannot provide inputs about radical innovations during human-centred design research.
To sum up, it can be said that ordinary users cannot provide eligible inputs to create a
radical innovation, however they might have experiences with prior product contexts that
form a new product meaning that can be considered as a design-driven radical innovation.
Authenticity is discussed in various fields such as marketing, tourism, architecture and
design, along with many others (ICOMOS, 1994; Kristav, 2016; Reisinger & Steiner,
2006; Pine II & Gilmore, 2007, Van den Bosch, 2005). Regarding industrial design, the
user experience factor is one of the primary focuses of authenticity discussions (Lioa and
Ma, 2015). Novelty, originality and genuineness are also referred in some of the studies
to describe authenticity (Feilden and Jokiletho, 1993).
Originality and historic value is referred in product design literature, as well as
architecture, as factors that enhance authenticity (Kristav, 2016). Since mass production
and market forces are effective in product design (Cobb, 2014), it is harder to discuss
authenticity on novelty basis. Buildings can be referred as unique items that are not
replicated and spread globally; they reflect characteristics of a certain geography and
demography. Unlike buildings, it is common for products to be mass produced and
distributed globally. Therefore a product that represents a cultural experience can be
replaced by others in terms of functionality; in this case even though the product may
fulfil its commitments of functional base, it may not be considered authentic as it fails to
reflect the cultural experiences.
The relation of product authenticity and culture are discussed through the backgrounds of
products, users and societies (Vann, 2006). Users’ prior exposures to product contexts
may alter their perception of authenticity, this phenomena is frequently discussed to
explain attitudes of tourists (Beverland, 2005; Pine II & Gilmore, 2007; Reisinger &
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Steiner, 2006). Also, designers’ views on culture, reality and world have a direct effect
on design process, along with designers’ education and background (Dunne & Raby,
2001; Dell’Era & Verganti, 2007).
Even though the replication of products obstructs discussion of authenticity at some
levels, many other aspects such as material selection, environmental concerns, identity
and quality of design input are still considered in evaluation of authenticity (Kristav &
Diegel, 2017). As mentioned before, initiation of a product context is also referred as
authentic, as the very first example of a product defines its authentic features (Kristav,
2016). Therefore it can be concluded that there are many dimensions of authenticity in
product design, and many definitions depending on the context (Kristav & Diegel, 2017;
Morin, 2010). The polyphony and ambiguity in definitions is expressed in the suggestions
that sometimes it is easier to detect products and phenomena that are not authentic,
than the ones that are (Cobb, 2014).
In this paper, authenticity is evaluated at the new product context initiation stage. As
stated before, the very first example of a product can be considered as a radical
innovation. A radical change that only appears in the product meaning is referred as
meaning-driven innovation (Norman & Verganti, 2014-a), while a radical change in
technology is named a technology-push innovation; a radical change in these two
dimensions is called a technology epiphany (Verganti, 2009). Since this paper is focused
on product design, the primary consideration is not the changes that only occur through
technology. The aim is to explore innovations that bring out new product contexts and
usages. Primary examples of product contexts provide their own original architecture and
experiences, they are comprehended as genuine and real, therefore they are claimed to
be authentic by their nature (Kristav, 2016; Pine II & Gilmore, 2007).
Regarding their nature and lack of human-centred design methods in their creation
process, it may be questioned if any authenticity-related user expectations can be
detected for radical innovations.
As stressed before, it is stated that radical innovations can be based on existing product
contexts and may be an outcome of their merger. This is supported by Norman and
Verganti (2014-b) with the quote “We stated that all radical innovations do come from
pre-existing ideas and innovations. So how do they combine if not by local incremental
optimization? By novel combinations, that’s how.”. The possibility of having traces of
meanings that are related to existing product concepts in a radical innovation hints at the
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probability of defining expectations of users’, related to their prior experiences with the
merged product concepts. When the literature on product experiences is searched, it can
be seen that there are some studies supporting this view. In their research on user
satisfaction and technology acceptance, Wixom and Todd (2005) emphasize the role of
behavioural beliefs of people in adoption of a system. It is also stressed that the
consistency between product experience and users’ behavioural goals is important in
users’ interaction with product (Hassenzahl & Tractinsky, 2006). Users have a tendency
to evaluate authenticity according to their expectations as they can evaluate authenticity
based on their assumptions about how a product should perform; this propensity is
referred to as subjectivity in authenticity (Beverland, 2006).
Based on the studies in the literature, it can be hypothesized that users may have
authenticity expectancies from radical innovations related to their assumptions. These
assumptions may arise from the merged meanings that users are accustomed to, which
also form the radical meaning in the product. Therefore it can be supposed that initial
example of a product context may include authenticity based on users’ experiences with
former product types. However, after initialization, a radical innovation can make a
statement about its own context and meaning. This new meaning would include its own
authentic structure (Kristav, 2016), and would create a new structure which would be
considered as an archetype that will set the standards for further authentic evaluations.
At this section, a conceptual framework on how to evaluate authenticity on radical
innovation of meanings is provided, along with examples.
As stated before, a radical improvement in a product can appear in both meaning and
technology. A radical change in meaning can appear by merger of previous product
contexts. Some of the examples for such changes can be Nintendo Wii game, Alessi’s
Family Follows Fiction series and e-book readers (Verganti, 2006; Norman & Verganti,
2014-a; Wilson, 2014).
Nintendo’s Wii gaming console was developed in 2006 in an effort to create an
alternative for video consoles market that was dominated by Sony and Microsoft; the
market at that point aimed to provide superior realism through graphics and resolution,
and the target users were mostly young males (Yu & Hang, 2011). In contrary to current
gaming experience, in which users mostly used their thumbs to control the games,
Nintendo employed MEMS (Micro Electro Mechanical Systems) accelerometers and
infrared sensors to enable a more active playing experience with lower resolution; this
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dramatic change brought up the possibility of using video games for exercising as the
new product aimed users from all ages and genders (Norman & Verganti, 2014-a, Yu &
Hang, 2011). As these games made users mimic the movements in real-life activities
such as playing tennis and such, alternative scenarios were built regarding the use of
these products, including education of disabled children and physical rehabilitation
(Pearson & Bailey, 2007; Hurkmans et. Al., 2011). Since Nintendo Wii brings both
inclusion of a new technology and a new meaning to the market, it can be considered as
a technology epiphany.
Figure 1: Visuals on a Wii Sportsracket Kit Box
Alessi’s Family Follows Fiction kitchenware is presented as an example for radical change
in meaning; therefore meaning driven innovation (Norman & Verganti, 2014-a). The
meaning change appears as this family of products aim to address users memories
related to their “childhood pleasures and sensations” (Verganti, 2006). The product line
was developed by getting inspired by a psychology study that focused on objects which
were related to psychological development of children; as a result, it included items that
were not only functional, but also figurative objects that evoked affections of users
(Verganti, 2008).
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Figure 2: A Member of Family Follows Fiction Series: Fruit Mama
The concepts for e-book readers were developed as early as 1930’s, and initial models
were seen in 1998, however the product that set the market standard appeared at 2007
(Wilson, 2014; Wilkinson, 2000). The early ideas for reading a book from an electronic
device aimed to build a portable gadget that would hold hundreds of books (Wilson,
2014). Some of the early examples had direct reference to books in their form and usage
(Wilkinson, 2000). More common expectations of users from the product were note
taking, in-built dictionary and memory capacity (Selthofer, 2014). E-book readers are
named as disruptive innovations, mostly regarding the publication market (Selthofer,
2014). They are claimed to provide a reading performance that is identical to printed
books with their e-ink technology, and they stand out from other devices such as
computers, tablets and smart phones that enable reading books in an electronic
environment (Siegenthaler, 2010). With their inclusion of a new technology and an
alternative reading experience for books, these devices can also be named as technology
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Figure 2: An E-Book Reader with an Ink-Screen
When these three examples are explored, it can be said that they combine experiences
and meanings that are related to existing products and experiences. Nintendo Wii
combines game consoles with real-life activities, Alessi’s Family Follows Fiction combines
kitchenware with the products that evoke childhood memories (such as toys) and e-book
readers address the paper book reading experience through electronic devices. Such an
analysis of related experiences and meanings is in line with the statement about radical
innovations that combination of existing product contexts can lead to genuine artefacts.
However, to build a successful merger of contexts, these radical innovations need to
concentrate on authenticity of the experiences. For example, as mentioned before, e-
book readers introduced e-ink technology to create a reading experience close to paper
books; in order to eliminate fatigue and eye-strain that are said to exist in other screens
(Dillon, 1992). Again, battery lives of e-book readers are expected to be longer from
other mobile electronics devices, as reading experience may take longer time when
compared to other multimedia tasks. For Family Follows Fiction, the kitchen appliances
have to include visual cues in the right way to address users’ emotions; therefore it is
understandable for design researchers to follow related psychological studies to include
elements that are genuine to childhood memories. Finally, Nintendo Wii should enable its
users to conduct a physical activity to support its original meaning.
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Since the adoption of radical innovations are supported by the fulfilment of users’
assumptions (Hassenzahl & Tractinsky, 2006; Wixom & Todd, 2005; Beverland, 2006),
focusing on the authenticity of merged contexts may be crucial for radical innovation of
Based on the discussions through literature, the following model can be proposed for
authentic evaluation of radical innovations.
Figure 3: A Model for Tracing Authentic Factors in Radical Innovations
In this conceptual framework, it is hinted that radical innovations will include authentic
cues related to prior experiences of users with previous product contexts. In the case of
Family Follows Fiction product family, users will have genuine expectations related to
kitchenware product functionality and usage, together with feeling affection related to
their childhood memories. An e-book reader should provide functionality of consumer
electronics through smartness and mobility, while it should enhance reading experience
through performance, by supporting various reading durations, locations and formats.
Finally Nintendo Wii should provide users with experience related to physical activity,
while enabling users to play video games in their preferred environments.
Prior to the emergence of a radical innovation concept, users may have various
expectations related to authenticity; however they may not objectify them. This is
related to suggestions about how ordinary users and human-centred design methods can
not directly help the development of radical innovations (Urban & Von Hippel, 1988;
Veganti, 2009). Therefore it is only their perception of authenticity related to experiences
that can be analyzed during the development of radical innovations; a good example
being the focus on psychological studies during the research period of Family Follows
Fiction product series (Verganti, 2008). Only after the initiation of the new product
Context A Context B
Authentic Cues
Authentic Cues
Radical Innovation
Incremental Innovation
Authentic Cues
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context can designers evaluate genuine authentic expectancies that are directly related
to it.
The second set of authentic cues form after the initiation of a product archetype that sets
the market standards. Most of the radical innovations are followed by incremental
innovations that develop and optimize the new context (Norman & Verganti, 2014-a).
Within these incremental innovations, authentic expectations that are related to product
archetype may be sought. Until the initiation of the radical innovation, users may not
have an idea about how the merged contexts will look like and perform. For example, the
initial assumptions about battery life of an e-book reader may be much shorter than that
of the actual product. Or playing a video game with gestures may be pictured much more
complicated in users’ minds. As mentioned before, radical innovations are primary
examples of product contexts, so they hold their own authentic cues (Kristav, 2016). The
product archetype that sets the market standards may influence users about how certain
product contexts can merge to build a radically new product. After getting accustomed to
primary examples, users can have new authentic cues in their minds according to their
experiences with the archetype. So they may have a tendency to seek these authentic
cues in upcoming incremental innovations.
At this point, it should be noted that upcoming products in different radical innovations
may have different natures. If a radically new product does not propose a completely
new usage scenario, the spread of the innovation may be referred as “imitation”.
Verganti (2008) expresses that Family Follows Fiction products are “quite imitated”, and
incremental innovators of product languages can be referred as “imitators” in the
literature (Dell’Era & Verganti, 2007). However this may not be the case with every
radical innovation. As e-book readers and activity based video games introduce new
product uses, they are more open to performance improvements. The upcoming
proposals for the contexts that are produced by competitors may still be evaluated as
authentic by users, if they are loyal to the quintessence provided by archetype and
acknowledged by users. On the contrary, incremental innovations that are based on
radical innovations which do not propose a new usage may be regarded as imitations by
The focus of this study was to investigate if traces of authentic expectations related to
former product contexts can be detected in design-driven radical innovations. A
conceptual framework was built to explore and discuss authentic expectancies of users in
radical innovations and incremental innovations that follow them.
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The conceptual framework hypothesizes that, as design-driven radical innovations can be
built upon existing contexts, they can include authentic cues related to prior experiences
of users. However, after the initiation of the new context, users experience the archetype
and get accustomed to it to build new authentic expectations from upcoming products.
It is stated in the literature that foreseeing users’ assumptions and behavioural beliefs
related to product contexts plays an important role in product adoption. Since the
success rate of radical innovations are generally low, it may be even more crucial for
designers to evaluate user expectations. Therefore it may be important to explore the
authenticity concept in radical innovations, as authenticity is one of the factors that is
directly related to user experiences and expectations. Inclusion of authenticity in radical
innovation studies may enable researchers to develop new methods for understanding
consumers’ perceptions and expectations related to radical innovations.
In further studies, it may be helpful to distinguish the radical innovations that propose a
new product usage from the ones that only propose new meanings. Even though the
inclusion of authentic cues related to other products may appear more or less the same
way, the authenticity perception in the subsequent incremental innovations may differ.
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p>We are told that ‘authenticity’ is what todays customers want. In this study, industrial designers have been interviewed about authenticity. Understanding the concept of authenticity, from a product development and industrial design point of view, is seen as an important way to understand how value, relevant to customers and consumers, may be added to products. This paper concludes that the nebulousness of the concept of authenticity renders it ineffective as a standalone tool for developing new products. Once on the market authenticity can, however, be seen as a factor that may determine the success or failure of a product. Authenticity may possibly not be a guarantee determinant of market success. However, it may be an analytical tool in determining market failure in retrospect. No product developer may ever rely on a given recipe that will always deliver ‘authenticity’ to the market. But if market and customer input is valid and reliable in the early research phase of the development of a product, then designers may be more inclined to use authenticity as an effective design influencer.</p
Now, more than ever, we are told that 'authenticity' is an added value that customers want. The objective of this study is to determine what kind of authenticity is relevant to design, and whether it can be used as a standardised procedure to improve product design. In this study industrial designers were interviewed about their views on authenticity. The paper represents the combined result of a literature review and designer interviews about authenticity. Understanding the concept of authenticity, from a product development and industrial design point of view, is seen as an important way to understand how value relevant to customers may be added to products. Once products are on the market, authenticity can be seen as one of the factors that can determine their success or failure. Though authenticity may not necessarily be a guaranteed determinant of market success, it may well determine market failure. The ambiguousness of the concept of authenticity, however, suggests that a standardised procedure to secure the presence of authenticity within industrial design and product development may be an inadequate course of action.
Like many people who live a great deal of their professional and social lives online, I used to regard the notion of authenticity as hopelessly old-fashioned, self-delusional even. As James Block remarks in this volume, we now live in the “age of the copy,” an era that, on the face of it, seems to promise a democratization of all forms of culture. As entire libraries of music and literature went online in the early twenty-first century, it seemed to me that only Luddites would fetishize authentic artifacts such as paper books, vinyl albums, and photographic prints. After all, the very word “authenticity” is only a few linguistic paces removed from the word “authoritarian,” and both words conjure up the idea of a single authority who imposes a master narrative of meaning. Rejecting authenticity, then, would seem to be a liberation from both the physical shackles of the real object and from the ideological controls of meaning. Jettisoning the ideas behind authenticity would seem to further the disappearance of the “aura” of the original, something Walter Benjamin famously noted in “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.”1
In 1985 the architect Michael Graves designed his first consumer product-a now famous teakettle-for Alessi, the northern Italian home-furnishings manufacturer. Although Graves later designed a knockoff for Target that goes for one-fifth the price, Alessi has sold more than 1.5 million of the original version, which grew out of a process that Roberto Verganti calls "design-driven innovation." Alessi, the lighting manufacturers Flos and Artemide, the furniture maker Kartell, and a handful of other firms based in the Lombardy region ignore the design industry's two norms: "tech push," whereby an improvement in performance and functionality dictates a modification in design, and "market pull," whereby the design accommodates consumers' demand for new features. Instead, they favor an R&D operation in which a community of architects, suppliers, critics, publishers, artists, designers, and others immerse themselves in a discourse about the role, identity, and meaning of a product well before they address its form. The products that result often represent a dramatic break from their predecessors-giving them longer commercial lives and creating high consumer expectations for the brand's future offerings. A familiar example of how a change in a product's meaning can lead to a change in its design and identity is the iMac, whose friendly colors and ovoid form declared it to be, in contrast to the typical desktop computer, an appliance for the home. The author's eight years of research into seven European design communities revealed the Lombardy cluster's special strengths: the number and quality of the links between components of the design system, such as schools, studios, and manufacturers. In addition, Lombardy is strong on imagination and motivation-qualities within reach of any group of businesses. Verganti uses the Finger Lakes region of New York State to demonstrate that the potential for a design discourse exists almost everywhere.
Thanks to the collaboration the internet has made possible and the open innovation it has spurred, we live in a world where ideas and solutions are abundant. The main challenge facing innovation managers today is how to take advantage of this wealth of opportunities, says the author, a professor of innovation management. He contends that being first to launch a new technology is less important than being first to envision its greatest untapped market potential. Most companies focus on employing new technologies to better serve customers' existing needs. Those that have technology epiphanies strive to create products and services that will provide customers with a completely new reason to buy a product: Think of Nintendo's Wii, Apple's iPod, and Swatch. Verganti explains how companies can systematically produce technology epiphanies. He illustrates the process with the story of Philips Electronics' creation of Ambient Experience for Healthcare, a system that uses LED displays, video animation, radio-frequency identification sensors, and sound-control systems to relieve the anxiety of patients undergoing CT, MRI, and other scans.
Four psychological theories are considered in determining the effects of disconfirmed expectations on perceived product performance and consumer satisfaction. Results reveal that too great a gap between high consumer expectations and actual product performance may cause a less favorable evaluation of a product than a somewhat lower level of disparity.