Flavia Papile, Mattia Italia, and Barbara Del Curto
During the last century, human development has led to direct changes to the entire planet, revealing its unsustainability. In order to respond effectively to this problem, radical changes are required involving the whole society, which must be conceived as a network of people in which companies are immersed, and which, in turn, are composed of individuals. Organisations such as companies can thus be defined as multi-minded social organisations, a voluntary association of purposeful members who manifest a choice of both ends and means (Gharajedaghi, 2012). Following this view, it is possible to use systems thinking and systems theory to create widespread awareness of complex problems (or wicked problems) such as sustainable development and to propose changes (Jones, 2014a). However, it is widely recognised that the introduction of an innovative element into a system is a challenge, as the latter activates defensive dynamics against what is new and unfamiliar.
Among the most urgent changes envisaged within the sustainability agendas of governments and companies, more conscious management and the use of materials appear to be recurring elements. For this reason, the research aims to analyse what systemic relationships underlie material and how systemic design can improve the material selection process. Through collaboration with two Italian manufacturing companies, it was possible for the authors to understand how to permeate an industrial system and promote a meaningful change in the material selection process. The results show how material selection is influenced by elements inside and outside the system and how systemic design can help companies anticipate and adapt to changes by rearranging relationships and aligning with medium- and long-term objectives by promoting changes and innovations that fit the company’s dynamics.
Keywords: systemic design, material selection, innovation, industrial resistance to change, circular economy