Innovation of Meaning - Creating value by radically changing what products mean to users


Prof. Roberto Verganti - Professor of Leadership and Innovation at Politecnico di Milano

May 2014

How to create innovations that people love? Research in different domains has shown that we don’t buy products, ideas, technologies, or features alone. We buy meanings. The more meaningful something is, the more we are attracted to it. Innovation has typically been seen as a matter of “problem solving”. Firms compete to provide better solutions to problems. From this perspective meanings are considered something to understand, not something to innovate. But meanings cannot merely be understood. Meanings can also change and be innovated.

Drawing upon more than ten years of research and consulting projects conducted with major global corporations, Roberto Verganti will show how companies that succeed in the long run are often those who innovate the meaning of things. The presentation will position innovation of meaning in the overall framework of innovation strategies, discuss its scope of application compared to other approaches and show how innovation of meaning can enable firms to capture the value of technological innovation and open innovation.


Roberto Verganti is Professor of Leadership and Innovation at Politecnico di Milano, where he teaches in the School of Management and the School of Design, and where he directs MaDe In Lab, the laboratory for executive education on the MAnagement of DEsign and INnovation. He has been a visiting scholar at the Harvard Business School twice, and at the Copenhagen Business School, and serves on the European Design Leadership Board of the European Commission.

Roberto Verganti has pioneered research on how to create innovations that customers do not expect, but that they eventually love and make them passionate. He has unveiled how leaders build an unbeatable and sustainable competitive advantage through innovations that do not come from the market but that create new markets.

He is the author of “Design-Driven Innovation: Changing the Rules of Competition by Radically Innovating what Things Mean” published by Harvard Business Press and translated in Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Italian and Portuguese. The book offers a new view of strategy and innovation thinking and practice.

Roberto Verganti has issued more than 150 publications, which lie at the intersection of strategy, design and technology management, has been featured on The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Financial Times, BusinessWeek and is a regular contributor to the Harvard Business Review online magazine. He has served as an advisor, coach and executive educator to senior managers at a wide variety of manufacturing and service firms.