the cone of uncertainty

Here’s a really nice talk that Paul Saffo gave for the Long Now Organization up on

It’s a bit long (85 minutes in total), but the 30 minutes of questions can be skipped. If you’re in a hurry, hit the link and then go to the menu to watch the sections titled ‘The Cone of Uncertainty’ and ‘S-Curves’.

There’s not a lot to say about it – I just think those are two good ways to visualise how we go about thinking about what might happen in the future. In particular, the section on S-Curves is pretty useful. It explains why we often overestimate the effect of something new when it is just starting out, only to underestimate it’s impact once it picks up steam. Since innovations nearly always diffuse along an s-curve, this is a pretty important concept to get a handle on if you’re interested in innovating.

Of course, s-curves are also a network story. In part we have diffusion s-curves because ideas spread through people connected within networks. When this happens, there is a critical point where the network quickly transforms from being somewhat connected to being mostly connected. It’s another reason why I think networks are so important in studying innovation.

So here’s your assignment: go and watch the video, then come back here and discuss. It’s worth 50% of your final mark.

Student and teacher of innovation - University of Queensland Business School - links to academic papers, twitter, and so on can be found here.