by Scott Ward
Most of us realize that as people we are hardwired to connect.
Be it between friends, family or tribes our natural instincts compel us to build communication networks across which we share our individual and collective experiences. These communication networks act as a collective safety net alerting us to danger or exchanging valuable knowledge or knowhow.
What fewer people realize is just how important these communication pathways are to the innovation process.
Innovation is built on the active exchange of information between people. Often innovation comes down to the active use of knowledge learnt in one domain, applied to the needs of another. Let me give you an example:
There was a shipping company in the Arctic whose job it was to rescue stranded tankers. As part of their rescue they would pump oil from the stranded tanker into a working ship to avoid damaging the environment. However the cold Arctic temperatures meant the oil would often freeze in the pipe and hamper the rescue.
After trying heaters and a variety of solutions the company struggled to solve the problem so they posted their issue online and offered a reward. They received a number of responses but the suggestion that won came from a former concreter.
The concreter said that when he used to set large slabs they would put an agitator in the concrete. The agitator would vibrate and keep the concrete moving which gave them more time to pour, as the slab was slower to set. The concreter suggested they do something similar but with a pole shaped agitator that sat in the pipe; they did and it worked!
So while the required innovation seemed obvious to the concreter it is a great example of how we use communication networks to draw knowledge from one domain and apply it to the needs of another.
When we realize that successful innovation is heavily dependant on our ability to build and tap into the knowledge that sits across a multitude of networks, suddenly the magnitude of the opportunity that sits within social media becomes apparent.
Today, thanks to technology, we sit on the cusp of something truly brilliant.
With nearly two billion people on-line we now have the platform to connect our collective brilliance. The opportunity to share, learn and progress has never been greater and the spoils of this connectivity will build momentum over the coming generations.
Yes, the world is changing faster than ever before, and yes, this implies a massive need for organisations to get involved; but for the creative inventor that sits in all of us, brimming with childlike curiosity, this is our time.