Throughout our work with innovation teams, every now and then we encourage them to think guided by so-called conceptual lenses. These are usually applied in research, framing and ideation activities during projects or daily work. We also use them to focus thinking in workshops, teaching situations and strategic conversations.
When talking about a lens, we mean a meta-idea, theory, philosophy or high-level framework which provides a totally different view/understanding of the world. Every lens introduces certain logic and design constraints which force us to leave dominant beliefs aside. Often lenses are completely juxtaposed to dominant (business) logic and have therefore proven themselves very valuable for reframing problems or for when teams of people with ‘professional damages’ have to be forced to think in interconnected systems or outside their existing mental models.
Prominent lenses we use on a regular basis are Service-Dominant Logic , Circular Economy and Biomimicry ‘thinking’ . At best a lens provides a mental framework into which other mid-range theories and management/innovation approaches can be categorized, or to which they can be related. A lens often comes with general principles on how the world works or ought to work in a normative sense (e.g. in Biomimicry: “All chemistry has to be done in water only.”, or in S-D logic: “Service is the fundamental basis of exchange.”, or in Circular Economy: “Recycling is the least favorable option”).