Friday, July 20, 2007

So is innovation about people or technology?

...and I know the academics reading this will answer "Both!"

I was prompted to think about this when considering some of the Associates we're recruiting for the new project (see the news item).

I also looked at one of the Henley Management College's intriguingly named 'Schools of Thought Leadership' (which does sound a bit 1984). The one I was taken with was the 'School of Growth, Innovation and Enterprise' and in particular its 'Centre for Creative Destruction'. Great name.

But have a look - I was quite disappointed. It didn't seem to me to be particularly destructive...or creative.

Then, as these things happen, I watched a repeat of the wonderful QI (just a few minutes ago actually - the story is also in the QI Book of General Ignorance).

Stephen Fry happened to ask if anyone knew what 'desire lines' were.

You can look at the Wikipedia entry which gives you a very dry account, or simply check out the picture.

It's what people do, or where they go, of their own accord; regardless of what you tell them, or expect of them.

I guess lots of people have blogged on this subject as it is a great metaphor for design and practice. Again, some of the discussion is quite arid, though you might want to check

As an example, a website (or any kind of IT system) is of course designed, but if it doesn't match the natural behaviour and inclination of the users, they just don't work.

Hence even the current crop of Web 2.0 'social networking' sites aren't quite as innovative (or creative or destructive...) as we might think since they are also very structured way before they get any users. Having said that, of course, the users themselves make the connections that are so important to social networking sites and they decide (to some extent) what data (photos, music, chat) are exchanged. But there is a constraint built in.

Until, maybe Web 2.1, or possibly Web 3.0 when users log into a completely blank screen and then decide what they want. Anyone know of a site like this?

The analogy is clear - you don't build the pathways until people define them for you. Maybe you just need better and better research, but I think not since customers move about a lot, changing their minds to boot (ask Stephen Brown and read his paper); I imagine quite a few people sign up to Bebo and MySpace and never use it; I read somewhere about the thousands of blogs frozen in time some months back as they are neglected by their writers.

It may be that the most successful companies just go out there and innovate on a hunch - a genuine creative action - and the ones we hear about get lucky.

Yes...I have thought about the relevance of 'please walk on the grass'. Just let them walk and see where they go.


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