Connected World = Creativity & Innovation

As I’ve studied the shifts occurring due to our increasingly connected world, I’m primarily focused on disruption, removal of inefficiencies and, most importantly, on new ways to create and innovate.

Of the 90 or so thought leaders whom I read daily in my news aggregator, one such group of thinkers is at Futuretext led by founder, Ajit Joakar. On April 5th, they’d pointed to a McKinsey and Co. brief report online entitled, “How Businesses are Using Web 2.0. A Global Survey” and I flagged the article…which I just got to reading this morning. I’d heartily recommend you register and read it (free reg) or subscribe to the entire McKinsey Quarterly site ($150 per year).

But in my typical parallel thinking and associative neural pathway adventures (i.e., Attention Deficit (ADD)), I saw a link to, “Creation nets: Getting the most from open innovation“. Reading it I had an “Aha!…I’ve read this before” moment and it led me to this post from May of last year by John Hagel on Edge Perspectives…one of the thought leaders I follow.

In that post is a link to a working paper (PDF) entitled “Creation Nets”. Penned by John Hagel and John Seely Brown, it will give you a solid understanding of the same themes running through Wikinomics by Don Tapscott and one of my favorites A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink. Though the term “creation nets” hasn’t really become the meme that people point to, I love it. Why? Because creativity most often comes from careful analysis coupled with flashes of brilliance, the taking of risks, or having something completely unexpected or accidental inform or guide the outcome.

From the post by Hagel:  There’s a lot of talk about product innovation and there is some attention to process innovation and business model innovation.  But most executives do not fully understand the institutional innovation that explains the emergence and growth of creation nets.  We hope that our article will make a contribution to building that understanding. As usual, we have developed a more detailed working paper (PDF) that amplifies the themes introduced in the article.

What are the implications of this for you and why should you care?

My personal experience with our increasingly connected world is that many “creation nets” are loosely coupled, informal or ad hoc assemblages of like-minded people (or people blogging, podcasting or active in social networks or groups) or federations with autonomous groups within them that have loosely coupled connections with people outside the group or federation. Messy? Yep. Chaotic? Yep. Working? In the same way that civilizations formed as people went through the process of clustering for protection and mutual benefit, the same thing is happening online as we — and our machines — get connected.  Open innovation; open source software; open courseware; open business; and so many other things are occurring so quickly that it’s hard to stay current.

Stop what you’re doing right this second and consider your job; your company; your education or that of your kids; your community; your country; and the organizations and institutions you’ve come to rely on and trust. Chances are some collection of individuals, federated groups or loosely coupled like-minded people are figuring out how to disrupt, create, innovate or blow up what you need or hold dear.

Now THAT was certainly uplifting Borsch and sort of out of character for a guy whose glass is 51% full.  I know. So let me tell you what I think you should do (which I’m doing, advising clients to do and am seeing done successfully by some companies).

There isn’t any magic or man behind the curtain with some great software or automated process that you can just buy. No publication to read that gives you the perfect roadmap. The secret sauce? Paying attention, wandering around, asking questions, seeking, and figuring out what YOU need to do.

Case in point: a local Minnesota company has an excellent “idea engine” that is allowing a Fortune 100 company based here to allow their employees to submit ideas. Then, with a Digg-like social-promotion-of-ideas capability — people ‘vote’ on their favorite ideas and the top ones bubble up to the front page — the senior staff examines the top ideas and has already implemented many of them.

Since 2003 the term “architecture of participation” has been in thought leader’s heads after Tim O’Reilly coined the term. Though O’Reilly is a technologist and was speaking primarily of the Internet-centric and software-centric architecture needed to be in-the-game going forward, I argue that how YOU deliver your value, how your company is architected (company structure; willingness to be open and transparent; not risk averse, etc.) is as important as the systemic infrastructure put into place to support these attitudes and mindsets.

As you can see from the graph at left which I snagged from that McKinsey report, the #2 initiative that most interests companies surveyed is “collective intelligence” right after “Web services” which will, of course, allow them to engage an accelerating and participative people that are connected globally. Company leaders are waking up to the fact that they can’t hire everyone; nor can they get the smartest people; nor can they any longer guess, hope or expect that they can push out information or products without FIRST engaging the collective consciousness of their employees, customers and prospects.

If you put into place idea engines; threaded discussion forums for customers or prospects; blogs for yourself or, if you’re a company leader, customer service and salespeople so they can communicate with customers and prospects; ALL IN AN OPEN AND TRANSPARENT WAY, you’ll do fine as you open yourself and your company to the accelerating change, the disruption, the creativity and innovation swirling around all of us.

Do something and don’t delay.

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1 Comment

  1. Alex Osterwalder on April 14, 2007 at 4:39 pm

    interesting blog! Alex



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About Steve Borsch

Strategist. Learner. Idea Guy. Salesman. Connector of Dots. Friend. Husband & Dad. CEO. Janitor. More here.

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