Research goals and why the work was worth doing

The discourse on sustainable innovation is largely dominated by an instrumental "more is more" mindset that focuses on additive transformations (e.g., new technology). Ironically, this often leads to solutions that increase unsustainable production and generate new forms of consumption, thereby often reproducing or exacerbating existing problems, rather than solving them. The benefits of efficient or cleaner energy technologies, for instance, may be cancelled out if they also lead to a further expansion of energy demands (Jevons Paradox). Thus, the sustainability transition will also require subtractive solutions guided by a "less is more" mindset (e.g., eliminating certain technologies, products or processes or relying on solutions that require fewer resources).
The aim of this project is to examine the factors that mitigate the additive bias and foster the implementation of subtractive innovations, hence leading to a better balance between additive and subtractive change. By investigating the cognitive, social and affective-motivational factors that reinforce the additive bias, we aspire to better understand the conditions that may favor or hinder the creation and adoption of subtractive solutions to problems. We are also interested in studying these effects on an organizational level and their implications towards receptiveness to and implementation of subtractive and additive ideas.

Theoretical background
Both additive and subtractive problem solutions have clear benefits for innovation practices. However, recent research shows that people often prefer additive changes (adding elements to an existing situation) over subtractive changes (removing elements to transform a situation). This so-called additive bias is not only observed in individuals, but in organizations as well, where firms often provide more and more personalized services and products, resulting in complex business models and supply chains. The underlying factors behind additive bias could be cognitive (subtractive changes require more cognitive resources), social (additive changes are viewed as normative and are frequently encouraged) or affective/motivational (subtractive changes may activate loss aversion and sunk cost effects).

A series of experiments will be conducted, during which participants will be requested to come up with creative solutions, in a variety of transformation tasks. Participants will be tasked to improve a physical structure by adding or removing pieces, will be given a vignette and asked to come up with creative solutions to a problem and, finally, they will add or remove boxes to complete a symmetrical pattern. During these tasks we will manipulate cognitive factors (such as task complexity and mental set accessibility), social factors (such as the normative perceptions of the task) and affective/motivational factors (such as framing the gains and losses or the action potential of the task). The emotional state of participants will also be measured. We are interested in the factors that will encourage the production of subtractive solutions and their interactions.

Results obtained or expected (if not available, it must be made clear when they will be)
The results are expected in early spring 2023. We expect that reducing the complexity of the task will promote subtractive solutions, but there could be an interaction with the accessibility of the prevailing mental set. Injunctive norms of subtractive thinking and framing the task in the context of gains are also expected to be positively associated with subtractive transformations.

Relevance to the Congress Theme
By understanding the conditions under which subtractive innovations occur, this research project contributes to the development of new competences that can help lead the way towards a sustainable future, while it may offer urgent solutions to socio-ecological problems. It shows which changes are desirable, which changes are essential and how we can deliver them.

Relevant UN SDGs
It is widely agreed that addressing the world's pressing socio-ecological problems requires effective and innovative solutions. Sustainable innovation is the main focus of this project, which aims to create viable solutions that address urgent socio-ecological problems, such as the depletion of natural resources and the tendency towards excessive consumption and irresponsible production.
Originele taal-2English
SubtitelThe Future is Now: the changing world of work
StatusUnpublished - 24-mei-2023

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