Grab Bag: Constraints, Change & Networks

Three posts jumped out at me today, so I thought I’d share them with you and add some thoughts:

  1. First, John Borthwick wrote a fascinating and thoughtful review of the iPad. He says that the native applications that will make it a genuinely unique device haven’t emerged yet, but that when they do, they will be the ones that take advantage of gesture. I think he’s right. He also had this to say about some of his favourite apps to date:

    In the early days I was fascinated by camera A and camera B application — it lets you use your iPhone camera on your iPad, over WIFI. It’s one of those wow app’s — you show it to people and you can see their eyes open as they think of the possibilities this opens up. I think the possibility set that it opens up relate to the device as an extension of other connected devices. There (are) a small handful of other applications I found that have done interesting things integrating iPads with other devices — ie: Scrabble, iBrainstorm and Airturn. Airturn is brilliant in it’s simplicity and well defined use – using a Bluetooth foot pedal to turn the iPad into a sheet music reader. Apple might well have not put a camera on v1 of the iPad for commercial reasons (ie upgrade path) but the business restriction has opened up an opportunity.

    CameraA/B is a good example of how those design choices are driving innovation. One of the first pictures I did was a requisite recursive image.

    This reinforces my idea that constraints drive innovation. Limitations focus our attention, and since we are idea-generating machines, they help us find ways to work around them creatively. If you are trying to innovate, embrace constraints.

  2. Seth Godin wrote an excellent post with 26 words from A to Z that he has either invented or redefined. It is actually a pretty good summary of the major themes in his work over the past decade or so, with a lot of links that reward further exploration. I was particularly struck by his word for Z:

    Z is for Zoometry: Originally a term from zoology (pronounced zo-ology, in case you were curious), zoometry is the science of instigating and learning from change. This is the revolution of our time, the biggest one in history, and it’s not just about silly videos on Youtube. One by one, industry by industry, the world is being remade again and again, and the agents of change are the winners.

    This both explains why innovation is critically important (there’s a pretty high chance that your industry is being remade too), and it outlines an essential skill in the modern economy – initiating and adapting to change.

    If we’re innovators, we must build our zoometry skills.

  3. Finally, Mark Earls asks then answers the question What Are Social Networks For? His answer:

    Social networks are not channels for advertisers or for the adverts/memes you, your clients or any of your so-called “influentials” create, social networks are for all of the people who participate in the network.

    Social networks are not best understood as channels down which folk send things; social networks are webs from which members pull down learning (from each other).

    Now how does that change what you’re trying to do?

    I think he’s right about the nature of social networks, and I think that the question he asks at the end is critical. It’s a waste of time to build things designed to ‘go viral’, because it’s not something that we control.

    Build things (and ideas) that people can use, and if you’re lucky, they’ll share them with their friends. That’s the way the network economy works.

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

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