Archives For innovation

At a recent workshop, I gave a talk titled “Other Kinds of Innovation,” based on this Prezi:

In it, I described three sources of innovation that tend to get short schrift in the whirlwind of books, talks and seminars abot innovation: social innovation, dark innovation and innovations by (not for) the poor.

The first of these, social innovation, is getting more attention thanks to books like The Wisdom of Crowds and Crowdsourcing, even though our culture seems to idolize the lone inventor. Fortunately, recent books like Steven Johnson’s Where Good Ideas Come From are tackling the myth of the lone inventor, but in our individualistic society, it’s a hard myth to shake. (In the Prezi above, this section is intentionally the least developed.)

The second kind of innovation that we often ignore is the category of innovations that are a net negative to society, which I’m calling dark innovations. These include defensive innovations by incumbents trying to postpone their doom, the unintended negative consequences of innovations created with good intent, and general overconfidence.

The third category is a subtle one in several ways. First, it’s not innovations for the poor, but rather by. Second, these innovations don’t always occur at the frenetic modern pace of innovation, so their pace can hide them. And third, some of these innovations are actually old, excellent ideas that have been buried for a few centuries and are now being rediscovered or reinvented, such as the methods of natural farming.

I intend to do a screencast of this Prezi, or perhaps several, but I’m posting now for a different reason.

Among the attendees as I presented was Peter Denning, who besides writing about innovation is the editor of the ACM‘s Ubiquity Magazine. Peter liked the perspective on dark innovation in particular, so we proceded to do an email interview, the results of which you can read here.

What do you think?

One of my highlights at the Economist’s recent Ideas Economy conference in Berkeley was Martin Giles’ interview of Ed Catmull, Pixar’s co-founder and president. I was struck by how deep and deft Catmull’s understanding of personal and group dynamics is, as well as how unobtrusive his ego is.

Pixar has had a phenomenal run of movies, but it might not have gone that way as early as Toy Story 2. How Catmull managed that process is a fascinating story.

You can see some of this expertise in this talk Catmull gave in 2007. Fortunately, The Economist has published the more recent interview on its site (albeit without a permalink yet), so I’ll share it with you here: