Open designer as product champion

Innovations, no matter how attractive they may appear to be, do not sell themselves. They need a 'product champion', someone who is prepared to fight for the acceptance of the innovation and overcome the resistance to change that prevails in every organisation. This is not a new phenomenon. Machiavelli already observed the 15th century (The Prince):

There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, nor more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and only lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new.

The Open Design approach constitutes an innovation, a first application of something new, that fundamentally changes the power structure in the design process. As in technological innovation, those losing power (experts in the old technology) to new players (experts in the new technology) do not give up without a fight. The parties losing power by adoption of the Open Design approach will try to defend their 'territory' by all means.

For instance, in the example of the urban planning project described in Section 3.3 the urban planning experts of the municipality lost quite some power to the future inhabitants as a result of the adoption of the Open Design approach. The inhabitants of the residential area were extremely content with the outcome, but the experts of the municipality realised that their influence had been reduced and showed feelings of discontent. As a result, they never adopted the Open Design methodology again.

The importance of a 'product champion' or 'organisational guerrilla' for the acceptance of technological innovations is well known, but how he operates or should operate to be successful is still rather unclear.

In this Section we describe two important features of the successful 'product champion' (Fig. 2.1):

1. The product champion always needs the blessing of a benefactor high up in the organisation (Van Gunsteren, 2003). In Open Design, he may even need several benefactors belonging to relevant stakeholder organisations.

2. The code of conduct for the product champion is Model II behaviour: his attitude and work style should be open and non-manipulative.

A product champion wishing to introduce something new is often felt to be a nuisance by others involved. The introduction of the new invariably brings along changes in the power held by individuals involved. Those having the

Figure 2.1 In Open Design, the product champion needs several benefactors

perception that they will lose power will counteract the product champion wherever they can. The product champion cannot convince them with so-called rational arguments. They do actually lose influence and are indeed not better off with the introduction of the new. They have to give in for the sake of the whole organisation. It is up to their boss to tell them that, not the product champion. If necessary, the boss, acting as a benefactor of the product champion, can pass the message in an autocratic way (Model I behaviour).

The product champion, by contrast, should always try to display Model II behaviour towards relevant players. If he cannot resist the temptation to achieve short-term victories by manipulative (Model I) behaviour, he will lose credibility and become ineffective in the longer term. If too many relevant players are putting banana peals in his path, he should address his benefactor high up in the organisation. The benefactor can then take appropriate action, which will generally be done in an autocratic (Model I) way.

If such a benefactor cannot be found, the product champion is stuck. That means the Open Design approach will not be adopted. He should then focus on finding benefactors high up in the relevant stakeholders organisations. Efforts to convince people at lower levels without the backing of a high-up benefactor are bound to fail and are a waste of time.

The product champion's influence is mainly based on knowledge power - due to his in-depth knowledge of the subject - and on reference power -due to his individual prominence. His reference power is reinforced by his open, non-manipulative Model II behaviour. The product champion usually has little formal power or sanction power. Whenever these are needed, he has to rely on his benefactors.

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