'Virtually any technology that is going to have a significant impact over the next five to 10 years has already been around for about 10 years,' Bill Buxton said. So our challenge must be: how do we stumble across them?
"AT SOME point in the decade after he moved from the farm in Nebraska where he grew up to the innovation hub that is the San Francisco Bay Area, Evan Williams accidentally stumbled upon three insights.......
"So, having already had two accidental successes—one called Blogger, the other Twitter—Mr Williams is now trying to make accidents a regular occurrence for his company, called Obvious............
So Mr Williams started Obvious, determined to go back to good accidental stumbling. One of its side projects—Mr Williams loves side projects so much that his main projects seem to exist mainly as placeholders—was something called Twitter. If blogs were difficult to explain in 1999, Twitters are well nigh impossible. You might call them micro-blogs or nano-blogs, as Twitter lets users write only 140 characters at a time, albeit from any device, or using an instant message or text message. Twitter imposes another restraint: each post must be an answer to the same question: What are you doing?
.....All of this has made Twitter the third “next big thing” in Silicon Valley in 2007—after the iPhone, Apple's innovative new mobile handset, and Facebook, a social-networking site. The proof is that copycats have sprung up, that Google has bought one of them and that Facebook has made its “status” updates, in effect, internal Twitters. (Facebook also works with Twitter itself.) Exactly how to make money from Twitter remains an open question......He would like to make Twitter as mainstream as Blogger. But what he really wants is to make stumbling on accidents into a culture, habit, process or speciality. That is why he has spun the 12 people working on Twitter out of Obvious ......
The irony of trying to plan accidents, and orchestrate their frequent occurrence, is not lost on Mr Williams. So he tries mental tricks. One is to ask “what can we take away to create something new?” A decade ago, you could have started with Yahoo! and taken away all the clutter around the search box to get Google. When he took Blogger and took away everything except one 140-character line, he had Twitter. Radical constraints, he believes, can lead to breakthroughs in simplicity and entirely new things."
Depending on your point of view we too could have had the idea for Twitter if we blogged a lot and used SMS a great deal and saw that a lot of the traffic is about 'What are you doing?"' Our iPhone could then 'twit' at us.
The Economist September 2003 Technology Quarterly introduction refers to Carl Franklin (Why Innovation Fails) and Jacob Goldenberg and David Mazursky (Creativity in Product Innovation) and writes of how to Expect the unexpected citing the highest innovation success rate as Random event spotting (92.9% successes), whilst referring to several techniques including Evan Williams mental tricks referred to above.
Twitter is interesting as it has proved to be a valid idea (some consumers like it) whilst its overall success is not proven yet as it has not demonstrated viability ( will it make money-directly or indirectly- for its producers?). Winning products and services are a balancing act between validity and viability; risk taking is allowing valid ideas to travel long enough to confirm, or otherwise, the viability of the tangible outcome of that original energising insight or idea. Many established organisations would have killed Twitter by now, but look at the odds of success in Designs on innovation.
The challenge for successful actions energised by the discovery of consumer insights that become winning innovation is not to look around us but to travel in unfamiliar territory, to look from different points of view, reflect on what we observe and recognise in other words as William Gibson put it
Picture uploaded by david.alliet . Used with thanks under CC.
"The future is already here. It's just unevenly distributed."