Special series on innovation theory: 2: Paul Stoneman’s Soft Innovation

Paul Stoneman's Soft Innovation is a major new monograph on innovation as it applies to the creative and cultural industries. Image: Amazon/OUP

I haven’t read the book, but you can read his previous discussion paper on soft innovation for NESTA. Relevant quote:

We define ‘soft innovation’ as a concept that reflects changes of an aesthetic nature. Such changes are considered significant if they are economically important. We show how important are new books, films, plays and video games in markets which exhibit regular novelty. Such innovations can also encompass a new line of clothing or the redesign of a car or a new advertising campaign. No-frills budget airlines or cosmetic surgery are further examples of markets in which firms rely on changes in aesthetics more than changes in technology to thrive or survive.
In short, we are concerned with changes in goods and services that primarily impact on sensory or intellectual perception and aesthetic appeal rather than functional performance. Soft innovation mainly concerns product innovation and, with that, product differentiation. Emphasising product differentiation allows that innovation may involve differences from the status quo and not just improvements, which is quite different from the standard approach where innovations in functionality require any new product to be an improvement; soft innovations may involve reductions in quality rather than just improvements (if price falls more than quality), as with budget airlines.
We identify two main types of soft innovation. The first involves changes in products in the creative industries, which are worth 6.4 per cent of UK gross value added, and include new books or movies. The second relates to aesthetic innovation in goods and services that are primarily functional in nature, such as new furniture or a new car model.
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2 thoughts on “Special series on innovation theory: 2: Paul Stoneman’s Soft Innovation

  1. Pingback: Some thoughts on cultural innovation and cultural policy, via the Victorian election « A Cultural Policy Blog

  2. Love the fact that NESTA broke this discourse apart and isolated the political imperatives inherent within this term and allowed the nebulous category of ínnovation’to be separated into component parts and thus recognise the cognitive work done within the Creative Industries and the social contributions made by ús’.

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