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Last edited 23 Apr 2021
C-K theory (concept knowledge theory) is a design approach that examines the concept of design as a continuous process that builds on theory and reason. It was developed within the Engineering Design curriculum at Mines ParisTech, Centre for Management Science in the 1990s as an impetus to push designers and engineers to innovate by seeking breakthroughs rather than by improving what is already known.
C-K theory is associated with research, development and academia in the UK, US, France and other parts of the world. It can also be applied to management techniques as a method for inspiring collaborative innovation.
The C-K theory is based on the distinction between two spaces:
- Concepts (C-space) - creative propositions with no pre-existing status in the K-space.
- Knowledge (K-space) - propositions based on logic, knowledge or experience that already exist.
 Engineering applications
C-K theory encourages professionals to explore new modelling directions while considering logic and mathematics. This is a departure from standard scientific approaches to design and when successful, results in innovation.
Consider this example from CK-Theory.org:
When designers imagine something new, they create new concepts – expanding the C-space while simultaneously activating new knowledge and expanding the K-space. These expansions are complementary: a new knowledge provokes the identification of new concepts and elaboration of new concepts results in the search process to acquire new knowledge.
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