In February, 2001 I presented at Daratech 2001 Conference, in the Boston Park Plaza Hotel,about the interaction of Design Processes and Technologies for packaging design in a global company. I was amused to find the hotel had been built with a large exhibition/ conference hall and nearby special rooms where sales executives could not only sleep but present their wares to prospective clients and customers. The successful ones would see their products being widely adopted; the less successful would rethink their approach, positioning or even their product itself in varying degrees of desperation!
The S curve above illustrates my experience of how a new design technology is adopted bearing in mind the complexities of innovation at the intersection of business,technology and organisational culture. Someone will spot an emerging technology... in an article, presentation or over a beer at a conference... and will begin to talk about it in the office. The reception maybe frosty or lukewarm, but in an innovative group this will be interpreted as "I haven't got my story engaging enough to hold their attention yet." ( I know the theories say you should suspend judgement, never criticise, etc. but as we are mainly human it is better to be able to live with the paradox of story development (as a colleague put it when referring to a key report he was writing " After it returns for its thirteenth rewrite the reviewer's positive comments are a bit hard to take!").
So how do we start gaining committment? By playing.. perhaps getting the technology vendor to show you what sort of play can take place. This is almost being at the inflection point illustrated in Technology Trails to Discover. The activity will begin to draw other people in... within the group and, perhaps, within the client groups as well. This can lead to an agreement to use on a real project to tease out the benefits. Often this can be done by using the new technology in parallel to the current, so that the client feels happy that project exposure to risk is minimised.
Successful completion of this activity will create a great story and a great demonstration that can be used to energise the roll out of the technology on all key projects....and then on to the next technology!
This diagram, from my Daratech2001 presentation traced the history of Design Technology adoption so:
During the presentation I realised that we could add another line representing the locus of points on the S curves where integrating and growing was proceeding apace so I drew it like this (by the way MIT means Make Ideas Tangible):
What intrigued me was the slow down in the rate of increasing effectiveness on the right of the diagram which must mean there was a slowdown in the cultural response to the options and opportunities presented by the technology. If you look at the bottom (time) scale then it is also apparent that we are moving from individual cultural responses to the group repsonses and then a greater population of the project people... as it turns out there are increasing numbers of individual interdisciplinary, cross-functional, cross-organisational inter-relationships to cope with as we move left to right.
We are addressing the issues of moving minds of individuals to that of groups to that of organisations; analogous the moving from Sarnoff's Law through Metcalfe's to Reed's; pushing out stuff, sharing stuff, facilitating the co-creation of stuff. No wonder things were slowing down.
During this period innovation teams being drawn from functions and organisations, that were geographically dispersed, in order to co-create stuff rather than have it passed on and be tempted to value add (complicatedness approach). Tools that help the facilitation and rapid creativity when the group is together and facilitates the reinforcement of strategic vision and action whilst apart, counteracting strategy and attention decay were in short supply. Much experimentation was going on to try to understand the dynamics of these teams and how emerging technologies cold be deployed by the process facilitators to enable dramatic improvements in innovation quality.
The latest so-called Web 2.0 technologies should enable us to build significant communities that can co-create new things. Lotus Notes was a step along the road; Groove moved into a web-world and brought benefits. MySpace and FaceBook democratised social networking. It is to be hoped that the architecture of FaceBook may point us in the right direction to build significant creative behaviour in a dispersed network, but truly dynamic teams do not spontaneously arise from membership of, say, FaceBook. The social networks that arise in that environment is akin to "going down the pub or club" where you have fleeting social engagement with a large number of people and a better relationship with a few people of like interests (birds of a feather). What we are looking for are tools that will support a dynamic design processing network of disparate people who may not have chosen to be on the project but will be energised to contribute fully to it by sharing a powerful vision of the outcome... more a sort of SpaceBook application. To sum it up we are looking for technologies that enable the innovation project groups to become Dream Teams by quickly showing these observable characteristics