Category Archives: books

IRC: The Myths of Innovation by Scott Berkun

Have just finished pulling together and writing up the second in a series of internal Arup workshops on innovation. The series are sponsored by our Europe Region Design and Technical Executive and are aimed at stimulating thought around innovation amongst some of our senior leaders. It was fun to research the *overview of innovation* presentation since it has been a few years since I have had to talk about this stuff. One book I came across was The Myths of Innovation by Scott Berkun. (I actually picked up a free copy of this book at Scifoo 2007 but had not read it until recently). I loved the stories around the myths and found it a very useful way to describe the effort that normally goes into innovating. I couldn’t attend the innovation reading circle meeting around this book but Nico has a great overview page as per usual and links to a Googletalk by Scott Berkun which is worth a watch if you don’t like reading books…

Google Tech Talks: Scott Berkun, May 14, 2007

The one big change to my presentation was the inclusion of the latest trends in Open Innovation. Arup are keen to explore this further so if you are interested in an open innovation project, maybe around the theme of real time building performance data in the built environment, then let me know…

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Heat in the Librarything

Two posts in one here… first is to say that I am finally starting to use www.librarything.com to keep a record of all the books i am looking it (if they haven’t got a star rating it means i have not quite finished the book yet…) Second I will also be using it to try and store some reviews such as this review of Heat.

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IRC: wisdom of the crowd

I had fun reading the Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki. It had been on the list to read for a while since the ideas in it (at least from what I had heard) reflected the strategy we had used in creating the Drivers of Change programme at Arup. If you go and speak to enough people then themes (drivers) that concern them start to emerge. The Drivers of Change 2006 book and the upcoming *Rainbow* set are the result of this collective wisdom. Here is my review.

Other books discussed at IRC07 were:

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking – Malcolm Gladwell (Penguin, 2006)

The Long Tail: How Endless Choice Is Creating Unlimited Demand – Chris Anderson (Random House, 2006)

See Nico’s great page.

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What the World Eats | Photo Essays | TIME

Came via kottke.org – i think i would like to sit down at the dinner table of the Ahmed family in Cairo or the Ayme family of Tingo, Equador. I can’t believe how much coke some people drink….

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Sound Business – Julian Treasure

The Economist report that retail at Glasgow airport increased by 10% when they tested a soundscape installation of generative music, birdsong and crashing waves. I recently heard an example of the generative birdsong at the Box at LSE (designed by DEGW) which was really impressive – would love to try this in our offices. Julian Treasures book on sound looks promising…

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IRC: The social shaping of technology

The third innovation reading circle reviewed The Shock of the Old: Technology and Global History since 1900 by Professor David Edgerton (Profile Books, 2007) Held at the offices of LBi near Angel. The session was chaired by Nico with an introduction to his book from David.

The main thesis of the book is that we do not understand what the important technologies of the twentieth century are. The book proposes an alternate (controversial) view to the current textbooks on histories of technology. It argues that the most significant innovations and inventions are often the ones built on old / traditional ways of doing things rather than the linear progression of hyped new technologies.

I was surprised that I did not find much to disagree on in the book. As an engineer, geek, partial neophiliac and foresighter I have all the credentials to be the stereotype targeted in this book, but I could not find an argument that made me uncomfortable. In the discussion around the question of *what is the author arguing for?* I was unclear as to what the next steps need to be. Whilst the argument that current policy strategy can lead to the funding of white elephants I wasn’t clear what the proposition for how it could be done differently was – I think it was the need to focus on the here and now innovation in addition to the long term invention.

My take away from the book was the unknown truth of history – for example the argument that world war II was won by horses, big guns and small arms, not fighter planes and atomic bombs. If this is true then why do we invest so much in the development of these red herrings?

Things to change: when assessing innovation a common assumption made is that there is no comparable alternative, to understand the significance of an innovation it is essential to understand the implications of use – how the innovation will change things that people do. Some comparison to the alternatives (even if the alternative is that it does not get done) is useful to understand potential benefit. Could this be applied to assessment of internal investments?

Interesting tidbit: the second biggest global killer of people (after malaria) is the automobile (around 1 million people per year – pg 27 – would love to find stats reference to support that).

Professor Edgerton is Hans Rausing Chair at the Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine Centre at Imperial College London.

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IRC: user-led innovation

The second innovation reading circle event theme was User-led innovation. The titles discussed were:

* Democratising Innovation Eric Von Hippel (The MIT Press, 2005)

* We-think: The power of mass creativity Charles Leadbeater (Profile, TBP 2007)

* The Ten Faces of Innovation Tom Kelley and Jonathan Littman (Currency, 2006)

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Innovation Reading Circle

Nico Macdonald did an excellent job of hosting the first Innovation Reading Circle today. The theme was sustainability, design and society, and the main title to be discussed was *In the Bubble: Designing in a Complex World* John Thackara and Bruce Sterlings *The Shape of Things To Come*

The objective of the Innovation Reading Circle is to develop a rich, well-informed, interactive public discussion around innovation (considering technology, design, society and organisation), drawing on and contributing to related discourses. I look forward to the next event…

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we think – draft book for comment

Charles Leadbeater was a speaker at our first Hotel of the Future conference back in 2002. He gave an excellent insight into luxury. His latest project is We-think – an exploration of and experiment in collaborative creativity. His book, We-think, is due out next year but his publishers have agreed to him putting it on-line now in the spirit of open innovation. Blurb from an email circular below:

With Google on the verge of bidding for Youtube, I wanted to alert you to my new book – WE-THINK: the power of mass creativity – which is available in draft on my website. You can download the draft, print it off, share it and comment on the text through the site.

WE-THINK is about what the rise of the likes of Wikipedia and Youtube, Linux and Graigslist means for the way we organise ourselves, not just in digital businesses but in schools and hospitals, cities and mainstream corporations.

My argument is that these new forms of mass, creative collaboration announce the arrival of a society in which participation will be the key organising idea rather than consumption and work. People want to be players not just spectators, part of the action, not on the sidelines.

With the support of Profile, my publisher, I am releasing the book prior to formal publication next year so that people can comment upon the text, add to it, disagree with it. I hope this open approach to peer review is in itself an experiment in collaborative creativity and will help to create new ways for people to write books and share ideas.

You can find WE-THINK through my website – www.charlesleadbeater.net – and by putting – www.wethinkthebook.com – into your browser.

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