I have been intrigued by the way that all the major innovations I have studied recently have involved networks of stuff, people, etc. in order to emerge as successful 'things'.
I read an article in the Daily Telegraph recently, "Extraordinary foresight made Winston Churchill great"
Extracted below...about Churchill and the modernisation of the Royal Navy prior to the First World War. Churchill persuaded many top people to take a risk on changing the way we exercised seapower to meet the threat from the German efforts to create a formidable naval power.
"From the moment he arrived at the Admiralty, a young man of destiny, Churchill started to prepare the fleet for the Battle of Armageddon he believed was inevitable. He immersed himself in the work of understanding the Royal Navy, its strengths and flaws, and the challenges it would face from its likely foe. To prepare it for war, he would first have to know the state of affairs.
With the Admiralty's yacht, the Enchantress, as his home and office, he mastered every detail of navy tactics and capabilities. He appeared to be everywhere at once, inquiring, badgering, learning.
He was interested in everything from gunnery to the morale of his sailors. He was fascinated with aeroplanes and immediately understood their utility in warfare. He spent hundreds of hours learning to fly. He crawled into the cramped quarters of gun turrets and learnt how they worked.
It became his practice to solicit information and opinions from junior officers and ordinary seamen, often ignoring or arguing with their superiors. The respect he showed them, and the increases in pay he won for them, made him a favourite in the ranks.
Churchill had been alarmed by the Admiralty's lack of co-ordination with the War Office and the Navy's desultory planning for war. Over the objections of the Sea Lords, he established the Naval War Staff to co-ordinate plans with the War Office. In his first year at the Admiralty, he replaced three of the four Sea Lords.
With John (Jackie) Fisher, former Admiral of the Fleet, as his counsellor, he set about building new ships that would maintain Britain's advantage over the German fleet. Churchill proposed a new fleet of five superdreadnoughts that would boast a battery of eight 15-inch guns, each firing a 1,920lb shell. No gun of this size had been built or even contemplated by another navy.
"Enlarging the guns," he wrote, "meant enlarging the ships, and enlarging the ships meant enlarging the cost."......
When the new 15-inch gun proved a "brilliant success", Churchill turned next to the problem of speed. To combat that new and troubling weapon of naval warfare, the torpedo, the battleships would be protected with 13 and a half inches of steel armour. The guns and their shells already added weight. Churchill's answer was to order them to carry four instead of the five turrets of the existing dreadnoughts, and to add more boilers.
But the ships would still not be able to reach the 25 knots that would give them superiority in battle. One remedy was evident to both Churchill and Fisher: oil. Oil was more combustible and burned hotter than coal and it produced steam faster, which in turn enabled a ship to accelerate more rapidly and to rely on fewer boilers.
What is more, oil-burning ships created less smoke, making them less visible to the enemy. They required less manpower and could remain at sea longer.
The decision to convert the fleet from coal to oil was the most controversial of Churchill's reforms. Britain produced no oil. It produced coal. The oil supplies of the world were under foreign control. Oil was flammable: a direct hit on a tank could set off an immediate inferno. Storage tanks ashore would be vulnerable to attack........
Curchill argued "If we overcame the difficulties and surmounted the risks," he said, "we should be able to raise the whole power and efficiency of the Navy: better ships, better crews, high economies, more intense forms of war power - mastery itself was the prize of the venture."
.....In 1914, one month before the "guns of August" began their four-year cannonade of the First World War, Churchill secured for the British Crown a 51 per cent controlling interest in the Anglo-Persian Oil Company for £2.2 million."
We can write a similarly complex story (e.g. The Perfect Thing) for the Apple's creation of iPod, iTunes and ITMS.
...and Andrew Hargadon writes of Edison in When Innovations meet Institutions: Edison and the Design of the Electric Light and Ford and again I am struck by the number and variety of factors that need to be tackled to create a successful innovative 'product'. But then all these innovations I regard as platform innovations... They allow organisations to build a whole systems of 'stuff' upon them. It is intriguing to try and work out what is the platform. Getting it wrong can be expensive.. as IBM found out when moving from large monolithic computers to small PCs it discovered the operating system became the paltform.
Is the iPhone a similar platform? The Wired article here describes the potential of the device to disrupt and ends...
"It may appear that the carriers' nightmares have been realized, that the iPhone has given all the power to consumers, developers, and manufacturers, while turning wireless networks into dumb pipes. But by fostering more innovation, carriers' networks could get more valuable, not less. Consumers will spend more time on devices, and thus on networks, racking up bigger bills and generating more revenue for everyone. According to Paul Roth, AT&T's president of marketing, the carrier is exploring new products and services — like mobile banking — that take advantage of the iPhone's capabilities. "We're thinking about the market differently," Roth says. In other words, the very development that wireless carriers feared for so long may prove to be exactly what they need. It took Steve Jobs to show them that."
Over at Logic and Emotion there are two entries that are intriguing:
The first was published just after the iPhone launch entitled iPhone Ecosystem an extract below
"Can Apple pull it off? Will the iPhone repeat the success of the iPod in the MP3 player arena or does it even need to? What about fragmented carrier considerations, such as not all carriers supporting the same technologies? I think Bruce makes a good distinction between "cool product" and "revolutionary product". The iPod changed the face of how we enjoy music. The iPhone seems to at first glance posses the same potential—if it can overcome some key barriers."
and the second is more recent entitled Space in your pocket:
David Armano writes
"I was sitting in the audience at the CanUX conference when I got the
e-mail. Someone from our Toronto office had sent out a note with a
link to this prototype of an experimental iPhone Web application.
I was immediately delighted at both the idea and execution and
couldn't wait to get the thing running on my own iPhone. My initial
thought? How cool.
But let me take a step back and offer up an insight as someone who loves their iPhone. The iPhone was designed with "talkability" built right into it. By this, I mean it's an extremely effective way to do "show and tell"." He then goes on to describe the potential of "show and tell.. makes you think... that massive change will come about by creative design... and why creative design?
In the words of László Moholy-Nagy, in Vision in Motion, Chicago 1947, p.42
"Designing is not a profession but an attitude
Design has many connotations. It is the organization of materials and processes in the most productive, economic way, in a harmonious balance of all elements necessary for a certain function. It is not a matter of façade, of mere external appearance; rather it is the essence of products and institutions, penetrating and comprehensive. Designing is a complex and intricate task. It is integration of technological, social and economic requirements, biological necessities, and the psychophysical effects of materials, shape, colour, volume, and space: thinking in relationships. The designer must see the periphery as well as the core, the immediate and the ultimate, at least in the biological sense. He must anchor his special job in the complex whole."
To sum up what is expected of a design innovator I would start with the words of my then chairman
Picture uploaded on by christophercarfi. Used with thanks under CC.