Taking the leap across the rationale gap:

The role of emotions in making the transition to more sustainable materials.

The objective of the Finland’s national bio-economy-strategy is to facilitate economic growth and create new jobs in bio-economy based businesses.  The transition towards more sustainable future in bio-economy, is not only about technological innovations and bio-based materials but decision makers and entrepreneurs also need to identify the new business opportunities.   Courage and commitment to persevere in seizing these uncertain new opportunities is equally important.  However, it is easier said than done, and sometimes there seems to be little rational sense in doing so.  Hence, our aim is to understand both the rational and emotional aspects of decision making in relation to transition towards more sustainable, bio-based materials.

The economic cost and profitability considerations are often perceived as key motivators behind strategic business decisions.  Logically, the decision makers aim to make, at least according to their own opinion, rational decisions.  From prior research, it is however evident that also emotions affect decision making, and human decisions cannot be understood only through rational perspective.  While both aspects have been explored separately, prior research has not considered that much how rational and emotional factors interplay together, what kind of emotions promote or hinder coping with uncertainties.   Our study focuses especially on the decision makers in small and medium sized enterprises as they are often the pioneers in adapting and introducing new innovations. Towards the end of the project, we aim to draw together our findings by integrating rational and emotional aspects to a holistic model on how these elements jointly assist in taking the leap across the rationale gap – and hence towards understanding how even apparently irrational decisions end up  ‘feeling sensible’.

The project is conducted in close collaboration between three universities.  The project leader at Aalto University is Teemu Kautonen (Entrepreneurship), at University of Vaasa, Henri Hakala (Management) and at the University of Jyväskylä, Katariina Salmela-Aro (Psychology).  The project also involves international partners from Singapore, Switzerland and United States.