Thursday, August 27, 2009

How Would You Define an Innovation System?

There were five questions I posed in my blog of July 6, 2009 about innovation systems:

1. Why did you begin working with innovation systems?
2. How would you define an innovation system?
3. What is your favorite aspect /concept of innovation systems?
4. In your opinion, what is the most problematic aspect/concept of innovation systems?
5. How do you see the future of innovation systems?

I answered the first question then. Now I’m going to answer the second question.

I of course didn’t think about it at the time but question number two – How would you define an innovation system? – combines two very widely used words, innovation and system, that are poorly understood. As I related in the first response, I’ve been working on innovation for most of my life, and I’ve collected many different definitions of innovation. In my experience, just about everyone has slightly different definitions of the two terms.

So, how do you define the combination of two of the most widely used and misunderstood terms? I chose to go back to the Indo-European roots of the two words. The Proto Indo-European language is the source of many languages in Europe. English comes from the Germanic branch of the language.

The Indo-European root word for the central concept in innovation – nova – is “neuos”, which meant new and now. “Neus” captures the concept that every instant is different. The now of the present instant is different than the now of the past instant. Change has occurred. It’s new. Heraclitus captured this idea in his quote, “You can never step into the same river twice.” As long as we live, we exist in a stream of external and internal change.

Or, “Time is the greatest innovator,” as Francis Bacon put it.

This profound duality was split in Latin into “nunc”, or now, and “nova”, or new. The phrase, “nunc dimittis” was asking for permission to leave now. “Nova” was short for “stella nova”, a new star that busts upon the sight. But even in these two concepts, an implied duality remains. For “nunc” first originated as “quidnunc”, an exclamation, “What now!” And, “nova” implied, a new thing now.

The first part of the word innovation, “in” is derived from the Indo-European word “en”. “En” meant in, within or into. So, literally, a “nova’ inside or within.

Since “nova” is a noun, new/now, we probably first changed it into a verb by adding the suffix, “te”, to create innovate, and then added the suffix “tion” to create a noun. When we did that, we added some confusion because the suffix “tion” can mean three different things - the act of innovating, the state of being innovated and, the thing that is innovated.

I think I’d be happier if we had just stuck with innova (n), innovate (v), innovative (adj), and innovatively (adv).

“System” derives from a very rich Indo-European source, “sta”, which meant to stand or stay. Hundreds of English words are derived from this source. (Even the word I used in the discussion of innovation, instant.) System came through the Greek “histanai”, to cause to stand. When combined with the Greek prefix “sun”, which meant with, the word became “sunistanai”, to place or set together. This became “sustema”, a number of things placed together. It was changed to “systema” in Latin, and finally “system” in English. Again, you have a type of duality present. A system is a number of things that stand/stay together. “Sta” came through German to become “gestalt”. Gestalt is a German word for form or shape. It is used in English to refer to a concept of wholeness. The concept of wholeness has an important role in a system. Godel, the German mathematician, proved that any closed system (of language, mathematics, thought, physics) always has residual error. The fact that we put a boundary around a system will always result in error. Our journey of knowledge is always to include more elements into the systems we consider.

An innovation system is a collection of things that stand/stay together and act resulting in something that is new/now.

An innovation system is a collection of things that stand/stay together and act resulting in something that is new/now. In this case, I am using the first definition of “tion”, the act of innovating. So, more correctly, what I’m defining is a system of innovating.

I believe that there are six different types of systems of innovating:

• Emergent
• Discovery
• Design
• Invention
• Adaption
• Adoption

Innovation, in the third definition “tion”, is the thing that is the result of innovating. In this sense, an innovation system is a collection of results of different acts of innovating that stand/stay together. Together they constitute a whole, or gestalt, so unified as a whole that it cannot be described merely as a sum of its parts.

An innovation system has two different parts and each part has three different types:

Nature – what is being innovated*

o Product – the result of changing nonliving entities or how they interact
o Procedure – the result of changing how living entities interact
o Process – the result of changing how living and nonliving entities interact

Class – how big the change is from the past; a measure of progress

o Incremental – the result of a small change; an augmentation of a distinctive or breakthrough innovation. A small advance in progress.
o Distinctive – the result of a moderate change in a breakthrough innovation. It enables a flow of incremental innovations. It is distinctive in the sense that it clearly belongs to the class created by the breakthrough but different. Usually results in a significant advance in progress.
o Breakthrough – the result of change that removes or bypasses a barrier to or a plateau of progress. It permits a hierarchy of distinctive and incremental innovations. Usually results initially in a decrease in progress with the potential of a very large advance in progress in the future.

Progress is usually made up of a series of overlapping s-curves. Breakthrough innovations occur in the gaps between the s-curves. Incremental innovations usually occur in the front and end of the s-curve, in the flatter portions of the curve, but can occur anywhere along the s-curve. Distinctive innovations usually occur as part of the middle portion of the s-curve where the most rapid progress is made.

The class of innovation can also be thought of as a cascade, or tree.

Service innovations are usually a mixture of process and procedure innovations. Disruptive innovations don’t have to be breakthroughs. They can result from a pattern of innovations.

Combining the nature and class of innovation together in a matrix results in an innovation system that encompasses a wide variety of individual innovations. However, it is the specific innovation system, unique to an enterprise, consisting of a pattern of innovation, that can exceed the sum of its parts generating economic value (or social good), comparative advantage and meet or even exceed customer expectations.

*Note: I recognize that these definitions need to be modified when the innovation concerns new life forms.

More to come later.

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Wave of the Future; Understanding the Present

This webinar, jointly sponsored by the Central Texas Chapter of the World Future Society, presented a summary Marshall McLuhan's work and applied it to understanding the past, present and future. It covered - the medium is the message, hot and cool media, our change from pre-literate to literate to post literate, characteristics of the post literate society, and the four laws of technology. It will close with a discussion of the wave of the future.

The benefits of understanding this approach are that you:

• Will understand why our present environment is the way that it is
• Gain a greater understanding of the interrelationships of past, present and future.
• Will understand the influence of media on our perception, thinking and actions
• Will gain insight on the long term future.

Paul Schumann, a student of Marshall McLuhan, will explain in simple terms McLuhan’s work, and his extension of McLuhan's work.

This insightful presentation will suddenly make clear what we are experiencing in today’s environment and why you have to ride the wave.


The Medium is the Message Slide Show

Recording of this webinar.

Transcript of chat room.

More Information
The Wave of the Future: From Four Causes to Four Laws, or McLuhan R... article

About the Speaker
Paul Schumann is a practicing futurist with expertise in creativity and innovation. He has lived long enough to see forecasts fail and succeed, including some of his own. He had a thirty year career with IBM in three very different arenas - as a technologist and technology manager in semiconductor technology, as an internal entrepreneur creating the first independent business unit within IBM, and as a cultural change agent developing a more creative and innovative culture. Since retiring from IBM he has been consultant as a business futurist with programs in creativity and innovation. He is the founding president of the Central Texas Chapter of the World Future Society . And he is the founder of the Insights – Intelligence - Innovation Collaborative. More information about Paul can be found on his web site.

Videos, Web 2.0 and Influencing the Future

Seminar given at the Central Texas Chapter of the World Future Society

It’s a relatively recent phenomena that an individual can create a video and have it “go viral” in a short time and be seen by hundreds of thousands of people (if not millions). “Go viral” is an analogy to the spread of a disease like human flu. Some of these have been about the future. New technology is making the production of potentially high impact videos possible for anyone. And, the web 2.0 technologies, especially social networks and blogs, can cascade and link the video with commentary to a great number of people in a short period of time.

For more information about how video and web 2.0 is influencing the future (or doubt that it is), go to Mediated Culture.

In this program reviewed a number of videos that have had widespread distribution through web 2.0 and discussed the message and method of each. What was the message? Do you agree with the message? What techniques did the creator of each video use to make it “go viral”? Is the video effective? Do you think it influenced people?

We did not get a chance to close the program with a discussion of what message should be given Austin about its future. Should we create a video? And, if we can reach agreement on the message, what techniques should we use?

This blog post contains the slide presentation for the discussion, embedded copies of all the videos viewed and an analysis of the videos, generated in part from the discussion. Please comment if you are interested in joining in this discussion.

Slide Presentation

The Medium Is the Message
Click on the above link for a presentation on the medium is the message.

Video Recording of Program
A video of the program can be found here. (18 mins, 66 MB, wmv) It covers just the introductory materail. All the vidos shown and discussed are embedded in this blog, and the results of the discussion are in the analysis


Did You Know?

Did You Know 2.0

EPIC 2015

Wall Street Meltdown

Mad Avenue Blues

A Vision of Students Today

The Machine Is Us/ing Us

Introducing the Book

Putting the No in Innovation

To see longer version of this commercial plus five other episodes, go to The Palace of Light (what Post founder called his original facility).

There are several principles that emerge from these videos that enabled them to spread:

1. They were short: This may be in large part to the fact that YouTube limits the size of the videos they allow. But I think it is more lilely due to the short attention span we now have. I think it is also a practical matter. For a video to “go viral”, it has to be short enough to be added to something else. You don’t want a long video in your blog, web site, talk, seminar, training or education program. You want to use the video to make a point, either to validate something you have said or written, or to introduce a topic that you want to discuss.

2. They have a single message: In “Selfish Gene, Selfish Meme”, Richard Dawkins introduced the idea of a kind of “idea packet” that gets created and spread though a society like a gene or virus. (This was first introduced in his book The Selfish Gene. I(n the story of Chicken Little, the meme “the sky is falling” got spread around the farm). In “Did You Know” Karl Fisch and Scott McLeod’s message is in the last frame, “Shift Happens”. This is, of course, a play on the phrase “Shit Happens” – bad things inevitably happen. And, when the phrase appears, if the audience hasn’t seen the video before, draws a laugh. In this case, the message is clear. Transformative change is happening and it is effecting you. “Did You Know 2.0” isn’t as effective because the message isn’t as clear and the closing is weakened by an additional message – a call for involvement. Some other messages are pretty clear: “EPIC 2015” – newspapers are dying and journalism is being transformed because of web 2.0; “Wall Street Meltdown” – danger signals existed before the market crash of 2008; “Mad Avenue Blues” – advertising is being transformed because the mass media is dying; “A Vision of Students Today” – students have been transformed by web 2.0 and the education system has not; “The Machine is Us/ing Us” – the message is in the title, web 2.0 is allowing the web to use us to learn and we are becoming the machine; “Introducing the Book – every innovation is met with resistance to change; and “Putting the No in Innovation” – innovation is not necessarily good, especially in food.

3. Music is important: The music has to support the message and move the audience along. It “drives” the narrative. This really apparent in the different music used in the two versions of “Did You Know” Version 2 switched from a music line that supported the message and drove the audience forward to a nondescript one that was not memorable and weak. I’ve often wondered if there was a subliminal message in the choice of the music for the original version – The Last of the Mohicans movie. In several of them, the message was in the music. In several of them, music was adopted or adapted from existing music, possibly known by the audience.

4. They use facts: “Did You Know” is the best at this. They not only used facts, but data, to support their message and provide links to data tables and the original sources, without complicating the message. But, this allowed skeptics to dig and verify the assertions made in the video. Dr. Michael Wesch, “A Vision of Students Today” and “The Machine is Us/ing Us”, has also done an outstanding job of providing source data. Even “Putting the No in Innovation” used facts, although the assertions connected to the facts were specious. It is humor after all.

5. They used standard methods of developing insights about the future: There are two basic categories of methods to develop foresight – projective and normative. “Did You Know” used a projective technique – trend analysis. “Wall Street Meltdown” and “Mad Avenue Blues” used scanning and precursor analysis, projective techniques, to build scenarios (normative) of future events. EPIC 2015 used scanning and then trend extrapolation to create a scenario of the future. They then wrote the scenario in the present tense of 2015 and treated the events leading to that time frame as history. “Introducing the Book” used the past as a precursor for the introduction of an innovation, as did “Putting the No in Innovation” only in this case to argue against innovation. “A Vision of Students Today” used a survey to create understanding about the gap between students now and the education environment they are in. (See Becoming Your Own Futurist for more information about techniques.)

6. They used different methods to teach: There was no one method better than the other. However, the good ones stayed consistent throughout the video with a single method and used the method well. I liked the compare and contrast method used in “Did You Know”. Humor was effective in many of the videos.

There's one more point not derived from the example videos. If the viral analogy is correct, then there may be characteristics that parallel viruses. Like a virus, the message in the video must have "hooks" into existing "thought structure". And, if the analogy with genes is correct. The meme must intertwine with an existing meme in order to reproduce.

About the Speaker
Paul Schumann is a futurist and an innovation consultant. He is the founder and past president of the Central Texas Chapter of the World Future Society. He is the president of Glocal Vantage Inc. He is a member of the advisory boards of the Marketing Research Association and ACC’s Center for Community-based and Nonprofit Organizations .He is also active in Texas Forums and Extreme Democracy.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Foresight in the Time of Simplcity, Complexity and Chaos

We live and work in an environment laced with complex systems. While there are many definitions of complexity, some characteristics of complex systems of interest to us most, like the ones creating our present environment, are:

* Behavior is sensitive to initial conditions
* Cause and effect and not related
* Unpredictability
* Nonreversible
* Will either result in chaos or criticality

Here the term chaos is used in the same way as it is in the Hesiod trinity – chaos, gaia, eros – not randomness but the source of creation.

Economies, markets, and technological development have become complex systems. And, almost all of the systems in nature are complex systems, including people. An understanding of complexity is vital to organizations and individuals.

What does foresight mean in today's environment? How do manage differently if the environment is simple, complex or chaotic? Will we have to change the way we look at everything?

These and other questions were answered by Paul Schumann's provocative discussion as he covers:

* Foresight
* 1, 2, A Few, Many
* Chaos, Gaia, Eros
* Simplicity, Complexity, Emergence & Fractals
* Examples of Emergence & Complexity
* Massively Parallel vs. Mathematical Modeling
* Characteristics: Simple and Complex
* Strategy
* Foresight redux

Recording of Webinar

Transcript of Chat Room

Slides from Webinar


Double Pendulum (cyclical and chaotic motion)

Immortal (fractal)

Dendrite of the Mandlebrot Set (fractal)

Paul Schumann is a futurist and an innovation consultant. He is the president and co-founder of Glocal Vantage Inc. (GVI)

He has been a technologist and technology manager in the semiconductor industry (IBM), internal entrepreneur (IBM), cultural change agent (IBM), and consultant (Technology Futures and Glocal Vantage). With 49 years of professional experience, Paul is still excited about learning, and sharing what he is learning.

He is the founder, past president, and member of the board of the Central Texas Chapter of the World Future Society. Paul is a member of the advisory boards of the Marketing Research Association and ACC's Center for Community-based and Nonprofit Organizations. He is also involved with Texas Forums and Extreme Democracy. He is the creator and director of the Insights – Intelligence – Innovation Collaborative (In3C).

Paul is a fan of web 2.0 technologies and has applied them to his own work, and to create market intelligence systems for clients. He is excited to see their application in democracy. His interests also include media ecology and complexity.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Anne Robinson's Unsent Poem to Spammers

From Tom Carroll

As I was working on a project yesterday morning and keeping my mind and heart open to humor, happiness and healing, I found a segment of video from a modeling interview that Mike Bown, Paul Schumann, and I did with Anne Robinson not too long before she passed away.

Seeing the video again brought instant laughter, cheer, and healing to my heart. It reminded me of the story Mike tells of meeting Anne at a book signing after not having seen her for many years. In fact, she wasn't in a wheelchair the last time they had talked. Anne instantly recognized Mike and greeted him with a warm hello and a kiss. When Mike asked how Anne was, she replied: "Oh Mike, I hurt from the eyebrows down." To which Mike intoned, "I'm so sorry, that must be really difficult." With a serious and sad look Anne replied, "Mike, don't worry. It's no problem, because I live from the eyebrows up!" She finished with a cheesy grin and a hearty belly laugh.

That story, Anne, and that special afternoon of interviewing with Mike and Paul all have special places in my heart!

Anne told many stories that day which were woven seamlessly into the larger fabric of the interview topic (the use of humor in leading non-profit boards). Due to the nature of our goal to elicit certain kinds of information (not to shoot a video or tell tidy stories), the story narrative is often stopped, started, and skipped as Anne patiently answered our questions. This makes the clips quite choppy. However, in the very beginning of our session, Anne let loose with this little self-contained gem about dealing with the frustration of email spam. Though it's a bit bawdy, it really captures -- for me, anyway -- Anne's wonderful way of answering life's difficulties and challenges with liberal doses of humor.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Medium is the Message: A Prezi Demonstration

Prezi is a new communication tool. It's much more free form than PowerPoint, and has some advantages. There are still functions needed to make it really useful. One that I would really like to see is the ability to add audio to the final show. You can could make some pretty cool videos this way. I'd also like to see the embed code to embed the result in a blog.

This what their web site reports:

Prezi is zooming sketches on a digital napkin.

It's visualization and storytelling without slides. Your ideas live on stage and on the web.

Have you ever wondered about presenting your thoughts as free as they come? Ever got tired of creating a slideshow? It's been said, that the best innovations come from people who are unhappy with the tools they use. We realized that our ideas won't fit into slides anymore. Putting together creative thinking and technology expertise, we have created Prezi, a living presentation tool.

My first attempt to use the tool - no color- no graphics, just words:

Prezi Demonstration