Where Science Meets Muse

When Domains Clash With a Thud – Fauxnnovation and How to Avoid it

Posted by Plish on March 16, 2011

It’s well known that some of the greatest innovations occur when two seemingly different domains join together to spawn something entirely new.  There is a great article here discussing the role of metaphor and analogy in creative design. 

Unfortunately, sometimes those different domains don’t lead to anything particularly special – the various domains crash together and the end result is a tangled, interwoven combination.  Nothing new gets created.   What does get created is what I call, Fauxnnovation...

I attended the Chicago Flower and Garden Show last week.  The theme for this years show was, “The Sport of Gardening.”  It was clear that the theme paid homage to Chicago professional sports teams, especially to the Stanley Cup champion, Chicago Blackhawks.  You would think that the clash of the sports domain with the gardening domain would lead to some really creative, innovative displays.  Unfortunately this wasn’t the case.  Instead, the majority of the displays were actually stellar examples of fauxnnovation.

The best (worst?) case is pictured below. 


Two tablecloths?  Plastering the walls with hockey cards and pennants?  Flowers in traditional settings? 

This arrangement SCREAMS fauxnnovation.  There is no creation of anything new. Each domain retains its original traits  It’s oil and vinegar – not salad dressing.  Unfortunately these types of displays were common at the show.  In one case there was an outdoor water garden surrounded by hockey sticks.  Again, no transformation to something new.  My mother used to save our broken hockey sticks and use them as tomato stakes in her vegetable garden.  They were sturdy and had convenient spikes built into them.  The hockey sticks were transformed into something entirely new. That’s real creativity at work. 

Here’s an example of a display that does much better at being creative.

This croquet expo transforms the flowers to something new.   Comparing this to the Blackhawks display, it’s easy to see which is fauxnnovation.  This exhibits creativity, and an innovative collision of domains.

I’m also including my own example of what may have been a better hockey/gardening based display.    I threw this together in ten minutes, but the difference is that there has been a transformation and blending of domains.  The venus flytrap is the glove for catching.  The blocker pad is a honeycomb, and the goalie’s leg pads are cattails. Can you imagine how this would have captured people’s imaginations  if this were built into a fullsize display? 

Next time you’re confronted with two conflicting domains, don’t just throw the two domains together and expect something innovative to come out of it.  Instead, look for metaphors and analogies that are shared between the domains.  Then build upon those, take them to their logical conclusions and  you won’t have to worry about your innovation being a fauxnnovation.


One Response to “When Domains Clash With a Thud – Fauxnnovation and How to Avoid it”

  1. […] but try it anyway.  Finally, one practical tip: If you want your ideas to be more useful and not fauxnnovations, look for that kernel of commonality between the  disparate objects, experiences, contexts, ideas […]

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