Coevolving Innovations

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Innovation, cross-appropriation, social practice, and structural holes

There are some who believe that innovation is driven by the genius of a creative individual. I prefer a more sociological approach, where innovation comes from individuals working together in groups. Not just any random group produces innovation, though. I like the interview with Ronald Burt in Rotman Magazine1, although I have to perform some academic hair-splitting to reconcile with his language. Burt sees the value of innovation beyond the discovery.

SW: You have said that creativity is an import-export game, not a creation game. If the most original and effective ideas are more often borrowed than created, how can companies foster innovation?

RB: We all specialize, for reasons of efficiency and productivity, and are often blind to good ideas that occur in other places. When someone brings us a good idea, it’s typically something that person has seen elsewhere. But we don’t think about where that person has gone to find the idea; instead we think, “My goodness, what a brilliant person!” Value is created by translating an idea discovered else where into the local jargon, so that it’s easy to digest. And in that translation is the act of creativity. [pp. 78-79]

There are some who believe that innovation is driven by the genius of a creative individual. I prefer a more sociological approach, where innovation comes from individuals working together in groups. Not just any random group produces innovation, though. I like the interview with Ronald Burt in Rotman Magazine1, although I have to perform some academic hair-splitting to reconcile with his language. Burt sees the value of innovation beyond the discovery.

SW: You have said that creativity is an import-export game, not a creation game. If the most original and effective ideas are more often borrowed than created, how can companies foster innovation?

RB: We all specialize, for reasons of efficiency and productivity, and are often blind to good ideas that occur in other places. When someone brings us a good idea, it’s typically something that person has seen elsewhere. But we don’t think about where that person has gone to find the idea; instead we think, “My goodness, what a brilliant person!” Value is created by translating an idea discovered else where into the local jargon, so that it’s easy to digest. And in that translation is the act of creativity. [pp. 78-79]

Eye candy for writer’s block

Having coached consultants on writing articles, it’s clear to me authorship has foundations both in art and in science. A thesaurus is a familiar aid to writers. Visual Thesaurus has been the leader in displaying words interactively through a graphical user interface since 1998. Now, there’s a new alternative on the web: VisuWords. The snapshots below don’t do full justice to the animation featured in both.

Visual Thesaurus provides a simpler interface, of nodes joined by lines.

20071113_VisualThesaurus_system.jpg

VisuWords presents a busier interface, and the lines joining nodes have different meanings. In the upper right section of a search on “system” appears the “is a word for” relations.

Having coached consultants on writing articles, it’s clear to me authorship has foundations both in art and in science. A thesaurus is a familiar aid to writers. Visual Thesaurus has been the leader in displaying words interactively through a graphical user interface since 1998. Now, there’s a new alternative on the web: VisuWords. The snapshots below don’t do full justice to the animation featured in both.

Visual Thesaurus provides a simpler interface, of nodes joined by lines.

20071113_VisualThesaurus_system.jpg

VisuWords presents a busier interface, and the lines joining nodes have different meanings. In the upper right section of a search on “system” appears the “is a word for” relations.

Media choices and your mental age

The IBM Institute for Business Value has released a report titled “The end of advertising as we know it”. I was especially intrigued by a chart where age groups were broken out. One read of the chart says that more than 40% of the over-35 age-group watches cable tv, while more than 50% of the under-34 age group is on social networking sites (e.g. Facebook or Myspace).

200711_IBM_ContentServiceAdoption.jpg

As if there’s natural experiment at work, the study page has an additional link to an “Internet vs. TV street interview video”. If you’re really interested, you can easily follow the link. Alternatively, you’ll have to wait for the news channels to pick it up!

The IBM Institute for Business Value has released a report titled “The end of advertising as we know it”. I was especially intrigued by a chart where age groups were broken out. One read of the chart says that more than 40% of the over-35 age-group watches cable tv, while more than 50% of the under-34 age group is on social networking sites (e.g. Facebook or Myspace).

200711_IBM_ContentServiceAdoption.jpg

As if there’s natural experiment at work, the study page has an additional link to an “Internet vs. TV street interview video”. If you’re really interested, you can easily follow the link. Alternatively, you’ll have to wait for the news channels to pick it up!

Productionization of services: a post-services direction?

I recently attended the Service Engineering and Management (SEM 2007) summer school at the Helsinki University of Technology. One of the more interesting themes that came up was on “Improving Competitiveness and Performance through Service Productization?” by Katriina Valminen and Marja Toivonen. The workshop brought up some discussions on the question mark in the title, but the paper is still under development, so maybe there will be some small modifications of the content still coming.

The focus of the paper is on KIBS (Knowledge Intensive Business Services), but the theoretical work provides a broader foundation. Here’s some excerpts from an early section of the paper:

What is productization in services?

A systematic development of services is becoming increasingly important when the improvement of companies’ competitiveness is pursued. [….]

I recently attended the Service Engineering and Management (SEM 2007) summer school at the Helsinki University of Technology. One of the more interesting themes that came up was on “Improving Competitiveness and Performance through Service Productization?” by Katriina Valminen and Marja Toivonen. The workshop brought up some discussions on the question mark in the title, but the paper is still under development, so maybe there will be some small modifications of the content still coming.

The focus of the paper is on KIBS (Knowledge Intensive Business Services), but the theoretical work provides a broader foundation. Here’s some excerpts from an early section of the paper:

What is productization in services?

A systematic development of services is becoming increasingly important when the improvement of companies’ competitiveness is pursued. [….]

The core, the periphery, and innovation

On my last visit to Finland, I again had lunch with Ville Saarikoski. Ville is ahead of me in pursuing graduate studies, and recently defended his dissertation on “The Odyssey of the Mobile Internet” at the University of Oulu last December. His central thesis is that the success of SMS text messaging has retarded Internet growth on mobile devices in Europe, in contrast to the rapid adoption of the mobile Internet in Japan. Ville was interviewed about this idea by Howard Rheingold in The Feature in 2005 , and published an article in the Financial Times in 2004.

Ville Saarikoski, outside Kamppi, Helsinki

On my last visit to Finland, I again had lunch with Ville Saarikoski. Ville is ahead of me in pursuing graduate studies, and recently defended his dissertation on “The Odyssey of the Mobile Internet” at the University of Oulu last December. His central thesis is that the success of SMS text messaging has retarded Internet growth on mobile devices in Europe, in contrast to the rapid adoption of the mobile Internet in Japan. Ville was interviewed about this idea by Howard Rheingold in The Feature in 2005 , and published an article in the Financial Times in 2004.

Ville Saarikoski, outside Kamppi, Helsinki

Features on the $100 laptop not on your $1500 laptop

I was looking at the One Laptop Per Child project — that’s the initiative that has to goal of designing a computer at a price less than $100USD, particularly targeted for education in third world countries. There are some really smart and creative people working on making the vision of an education project real. In fact, I’m impressed that there seem to be some features for a product targeted for children that I typically don’t see on my business-class computer.

1. Neighborhood mode

Neighborhood view mode from http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Sugar_Instructions#Neighborhood_View_Mode

Image: Neighbourhood view mode from laptop.org

I was looking at the One Laptop Per Child project — that’s the initiative that has to goal of designing a computer at a price less than $100USD, particularly targeted for education in third world countries. There are some really smart and creative people working on making the vision of an education project real. In fact, I’m impressed that there seem to be some features for a product targeted for children that I typically don’t see on my business-class computer.

1. Neighborhood mode

Neighborhood view mode from http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Sugar_Instructions#Neighborhood_View_Mode

Image: Neighbourhood view mode from laptop.org

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