C-K theory unifies creative reasoning and scientific knowledge production; it leverages from their complementarity instead of opposing them.
“Traditionally, creativity was about free ideation, and learning was about methods and observations - they seemed quite different, requiring distinct approaches,” Armand Hatchuel, Chair of Design Theory and Methods of Innovation at MINES ParisTech tells CosmeticsDesign-Europe.com.
“C-K theory establishes that the most disruptive ideas emerge from a thorough process of knowledge acquisition and reorganisation.”
Hatchuel continues explaining that in practice, C-K theory gives its full value when an industry experiences strong, rapid and unknown shifts in its core definitions.
“When disruption is no rarer, but is recurrent,” he says. “Therefore, if the future of cosmetics is cosmetics that are deeply different from standard ones - if a make-up becomes intelligent, if cosmetics become home-equipment, if human aesthetics are to no longer only be aesthetics - then C-K theory is the theory that is of value for this industry.”
In terms of the future of cosmetics, Armand states that C-K theory could be a valuable tool in helping established players stand out in the market, or for new players to emerge and differentiate themselves.
“Cosmetics seems to be at a crossroads,” he continues. “It has a long history based on both tradition and scientific research. The identities of products, processes, and usages seemed rather stable compared to other industries. A perfume is a perfume, a cream is a cream, and make-up is make-up.”
“Today, there are many opportunities, possibilities, and new players that could disrupt the standard ecosystem. If this is true, C-K theory could help old players to adapt to these breakthroughs, as well as helping newcomers to consolidate an innovative entry.”
C-K theory scientifically prescribes quite the contrary of what is suggested by classic brainstorming methods. It is well predicted by C-K theory, and confirmed by empirical research, that free ideation is not a warrant of really innovative concepts.
Moreover, Hatchuel states that classic methods tend to see originality and feasibility as antagonistic notions, which he says is not a general truth as it depends on the knowledge expansion.
Thus C-K theory guides teams first in reorganising their fixed knowledge and discovering new realities, before generative ideation is organised.
“This has been used in more than a hundred cases and leads to surprising breakthroughs - some of them have won awards and have changed the strategy of companies,” says Hatchuel.
“It is important to add that C-K theory can help ‘tuning’ the level of breakthrough in order to keep in harmony with the company's basics. It is also very helpful to smoothly change ecosystems, not just companies.”
Armand Hatchuel is Chair of Design Theory and Methods of Innovation at MINES ParisTech, which is part of the PSL Research University. He is discussing the logic of creative design during a series of workshops organised by the International Federation of Societies of Cosmetic Chemists (IFSCC) at this year’s in-cosmetics event in Paris on 14 April.