May 11, 2012

Innovation via Serendipity

We often talk about how Convo can improve the speed and frequency of innovation within an organization.

In an inspiring post in Fortune a couple days ago entitled The “Random Collision” Theory of Innovation, Saul Kaplan talked about how the shortest distance between where you are and innovative ideas is through unfamiliar territory. In other words, hanging out only with like-minded people won’t move the innovation needle much, but instead will continue to affirm your current worldview and assumptions.

According to the article by Kaplan, which is adapted from his book The Business Model Innovation Factory,  the “most valuable tribe is a tribe of unusual suspects who can challenge your world-view, expose you to new ideas, and teach you something new.”

The article goes on to talk about how social platforms can enable those serendipitous encounters with unlike minded people.

“Social media,” he writes, “is a hotspot for random collisions.”

So, how do those “interstitial” encounters happen? It starts with the fact that social platforms have a different sharing model than our default channel, email. As described recently in Machiavelli’s Inbox, email is a generally directed communication, where the people to whom you send, and from whom you receive, are known to you: “the usual suspects” that Kaplan reminds us are generally not the sources of new ideas.

Meanwhile, in social platforms, information sharing changes from a directed push to a more open publish-and-subscribe model. In many such environments, including Convo, the default recipient is “My Followers”, and in Convo at least, your followers are most likely the entire organization.

Of course, in a fast-moving information environment, your social posts will quickly move out of view. But who amongst us doesn’t live by search these days? The key to the publish-and-subscribe communication model is that the post is forever more accessible to others, and can be fetched by simple searches.

So, say you post a link on Convo to an article about how Apple may move away from Google Maps with the impending launch of iOS 6, adding a comment that Apple’s might pose an interesting opportunity to leverage your company’s geo-tracking app on Apple devices. For a few days you hear nothing in response, but soon a member of the sales team, trying to solve a customer requirement, searches on all posts related to mapping and Apple. Presto, your link and comment appear, and you may have found a way to bootstrap an interesting new project while solving a customer challenge.

If your use of the social network includes tagging your content, the serendipitous discovery of content can be even sweeter. Your content is discoverable not only by keyword, but also by category.

So go ahead, adopt Convo and court creative serendipity, and get your organization more innovative!

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