• International Journal of Technology (IJTech)
  • Vol 12, No 3 (2021)

Philosophy of Technology Design: Creating Innovation and Added Value

Philosophy of Technology Design: Creating Innovation and Added Value

Title: Philosophy of Technology Design: Creating Innovation and Added Value
Mohammed Ali Berawi

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Cite this article as:
Berawi, M.A., 2021. Philosophy of Technology Design: Creating Innovation and Added Value. International Journal of Technology. Volume 12(3), pp. 444-447

Mohammed Ali Berawi Faculty of Engineering, Universitas Indonesia, Kampus UI Depok, Depok 16424, Indonesia
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Philosophy of Technology Design: Creating Innovation and Added Value

Technology development is an important means of improving economic and socio-cultural conditions. It transforms our knowledge into an artifact that can be used to modernize our civilization and improve our quality of life. Moreover, companies must be innovative to survive and remain competitive; thus, they must exploit their capabilities through the development and use of innovation programs and techniques.

Technological innovation starts with idea generation, and the relationship between innovation management and idea generation often requires a multi-disciplinary team to develop a shared understanding of the relationships between thoughts and reality. If we could improve this, then we could enhance our ability to create value.


Technology Design

The design process is a series of steps to translate functional requirements into design specifications that say what an artifact should be able to do. In technological design, modeling is an important step in artifact creation and innovation.

Here, I would like to stress that the difference between the function and process of an artifact is a point where the concepts we use must be precise. The implied functional and process theories in artifact development are different in the sense that the first is conceptual and the second is phenomenological in the real world. We must determine an artifact’s function in terms of intentionality and how that can be achieved through causal relationships.

In philosophical literature, the concept of function can be divided into two main understandings: teleological and etiological theories. The teleological theory of function explains the purpose and requisite actions of an object by citing expectations of collective intentionality. For example, we all argue a hammer should be used to hit nails. The starting point is to differentiate the purpose of the artifact from the way it is used by articulating the designer’s intentionality. Thus, we can explain why and when an artifact (e.g., a chair) can be used in relation to its function; for example, whether a chair can be used to support the weight of a seated person, to hold the door open, as a step-up tool, and so on. An etiological function in a technological artifact explains a causal relationship between why the artifact exists according to an historical account of its adapted/ evolved form. Therefore, we can see the designers’ intentionality is constrained within etiological interactions.

On the other hand, a process can be a naturally occurring or a designed sequence of operations or events, possibly  needing  time,  space,  expertise,  or  some other resource to produce some phenomenological outcome. A process may be identified by changes it creates in the properties of one or more objects under its influence. The people queuing at a checkout in a bank, a bus stopping at a station, and the operation of an engine are all examples of processes. A need arises in complex design to untangle the design team’s intentionality and why they believe various things should become a process-driven solution.

Innovation and Added Value

Central to a richer understanding is that essential functions must be performed to achieve selected outcomes. Functions are performed by processes; for instance, a car engine’s function of “transmit torque” is performed by the processes of a particular engine type. By differentiating between different idea types, we can consider alternative kinds of engines, such as a petrol engine, a diesel engine, or a hybrid engine, all of which perform the same function of “transmit torque.” “New” ideas can arise in two ways: first, by searching for additional functions that differentiate products and services, and second, by improving processes currently in use to perform a desired function or by removing unwanted by-products such as car pollution.

Processes that make no essential contribution can be removed because they have no value. Value results from the efficient and effective working of a system. The interconnected relations between “function,” “process,” and “outcome” are designed to achieve the intended “purpose.” Every function provides an essential contribution to a system, and all processes should have at least one function that justifies their inclusion. The value of a process can be measured in terms of how well it performs essential functions and achieves the desired purpose. A television is a series of processes that perform functions such as displaying moving pictures with sound. Having this function allows us to innovate further and produce hand-held mobile televisions, video-enabled mobile phones, etc. The transformation of function-directed causal relations into manufacturing makes it possible to bridge the gap between physical structure and intentional function in a technological design.

     Identifying essentiality in relation to functions, processes, purposes, and outcomes enables us to articulate solutions. Identifying functions enables us to propose alternative ways or processes to perform those functions in the act of idea generation. An “extended function” sets a new context (purpose and goal) for a system. The ability to consider alternative ways or processes that could perform the same essential work with added benefits stimulates inquiry and further exploration of the origin of ideas. This is what I argue is the source of innovation and added value of artifact development.