metaidea, somedaymaybe

Why pornography and terrorism lead innovation at all times

Most managers would not talk of pornography / terrorism in the workplace that too in the context of innovation. But my take is they lead innovation on multiple fronts and they are driven by certain perennial trends. Both have ancient origins and have usually led in development of new ideas within constraints (regulatory for example), in adoption of new technologies or ideas, and bringing other uses to technologies that are not meant to be used for the purpose. In this post I give examples of innovation from porn industry (adult video industry rather as a very organized industry with amazing vertical integration) and possibly pick your interest on what can push the needle on innovation in the other service industries.

Enter porn innovation

Most Useful function: Content delivery to a customer

Printing press: Clay Shirky in his famous TED Talk How the Internet will (one day) transform government, makes an important point of how the porn industry was in the forefront not just today, but when printing press  invented some 500 years back,

It did not take long after the rise of the commercial printing press before someone figured out that erotic novels were a good idea. (Laughter) You don’t have to have an economic incentive to sell books very long before someone says, “Hey, you know what I bet people would pay for?” (Laughter) It took people another 150 years to even think of the scientific journal” 

Torrent: History repeats, guess who was one of the earliest adopters of the torrent peer-to-peer protocols, years ahead of the corporate IT function in the knowledge economy sharing large files. PublicBT which reports use of Bit Torrent usage across internet plugs 35.8% use was for pornography, as the largest single category. All this in less than 10 years of the distributed downloading protocol being invented. This sort of rapid innovation diffusion is actually very common to the adult video industry.

On standardizing imaging technologies for content distribution, for most imaging formats/standards be it the erstwhile generations on photography, video cassettes, or the latest Hi Def DVD formats, porn industry has always played a key decision maker role on adoption/setting of new standards.

Other Most Useful function: Getting paid.

Again porn industry is in the forefront with the adoption of payment technologies be it electronic credit cards  from the Richard Gordon creditcards.com era which pioneered non-face to face merchant banking services. I am sure there are porn sites with bit coin support now, or other unusual payment formats that keep coming.

Same is true for terrorism innovation only the most useful function changes to something like

  1. Bypass security / regulation
  2. Improvise arms for greatest damage

The fundamental tenets of leading innovation be it incremental and contextual in this case, is very evident, not just from the improvisations of the attacker but the response by governments and authority to curb terror as well. Only the speed of response from the systems are so slow that there are always ways to operate. This again is a very common trend called “Law of uneven development of system parts”.

PS: Marking this a somedaymaybe project to come back and list further technologies that were born out of porn…it will be fun to do I am sure. I have not even touched on SPAM, network speeds, live tech, cross website feed, scripting, ad technologies, pay per views, …

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books, cognoise

KM KAP kaput

Heavily influenced by my current reading of Diffusion of Innovations by E Rogers. I was reflecting on how KM fails to diffuse. From a diffusion perspective I have experience in hitting a few successful S curves and some not so successful ones or those that fizzled out before hitting a critical mass of adopters.

The KAP framework as Rogers notes may not be really scientific and may prove nothing from a data/theoretical standpoint. But it has application on the field. KAP is a simple framework used to evaluate

  • Knowledge (K) : whether potential users have means to get knowledge on KM systems, processes and develop the minimal skills to use them
  • Attitude (A) : whether there exists a favorable attitude toward the new KM systems, processes among the intended users
  • Practice / Adoption (P) : whether KM adoption / practice happens with new users over a period

KAP gap is real in organizations specifically in adopting new processes that are not mandated including KM in most cases. May be a small walk across the building can bring to surface existing gaps.

WIth no KAP, KM is kaput…

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metaidea

Evaluating Innovation

Evaluating innovation has always been a difficult job for innovators, investors, facilitators, and managers. With increased pace of developing ideas, it becomes critical to evaluate innovations effectively and quickly. Before I begin developing an innovation evaluation framework, I will define what I think is an innovation and draw some characteristics first. Innovations are

  • purposeful action and aligns with some personal or organizational vision
  • developing ideas that are perceived as new and valuable
  • impactful at a scale, may include financial, social, environmental, life impact
  • investments that may lead to disproportionate returns

Innovations are evaluated for various purposes like

  1. Qualifying for investment/grant/other resources
  2. Quantifying impact of the innovation
  3. Modifying the development process for a set of ideas
“While we recognize that the American economy is changing in fundamental ways- and that most of this change related directly to innovation-our understanding remains incomplete…centrality of the need to advance innovation measurement cannot be understated” – Carl Schramm in the committee report to Secretary of Commerce 2008

At level 0, I believe the following facets have to be considered

EvaluatingInnovationsL0

Evaluation includes the following phases/activities around data and reporting

1. Data Collection, depending on the kind of evaluation it may include quantitative and qualitative information.  Typically if data is collected from primary sources aka the field through surveys, direct interview, or secondary sources like agencies. Every collection effort should include independent variables, and dependent variables. It is useful to segregate between input variables, and outcome variables. Units of measure for all variables have to be standardized or they should be convertible. In case of comparison between different variables, you might want to consider some normalization process. Data quality standards are to be set prior to beginning the data collection and for any further analysis data has to be of some agreed minimum quality.

2. Analysis and Data representation, depending on the kind of data collected analysis methods will vary.  For example representations for financials will be in spread sheets and charts, social data will be on maps, stories will be as fitness landscapes. Typically here is where any hypothesis is provided, and tested, future state predictions like forecasts based on models are put forth. Comparison with history or benchmarks will happen at this stage as well.

3. Results of evaluation, should be an action or recommendation. In most cases evaluation leads to decisions by parties other than the evaluator. If this party is not identified prior to evaluation process, the effort is most likely to go waste.

“What are we really going to do with this? Why are we doing it? What purpose is it going to serve? How are we going to use this information?” This typically gets answered casually: “We are going to use the evaluation to improve the program” — without asking the more detailed questions: “What do we mean by improve the program? What aspects of the program are we trying to improve?” So a focus develops, driven by use.”  – Michael Quinn Patton

Once you have decided which facet of innovation you are trying to evaluate, we can now adopt from many of  available methods for doing the actual evaluation. I will try and list some of them below, with links to external resources that I have found useful.

Impact: EPSIS provides a detailed framework and clearly distinguishes between output, impact and performance and provides a set of indicators that can be used for direct measurements or indirect impact measurements. Social Impact evaluation on philanthropy from Stanford is a good place to start.

Investment: Investments related evaluation includes both input costs and outcome returns to compare innovations. For example we use something called as the t-shirt sizing for ideas at first level, that will give a scale estimate of cost. Return on Investment as a ratio is a good measure but the underlying assumptions for predicting returns has to clear, and the other common error is around data quality when predicting returns.

I personally use value investing check for fundamentals when getting into stocks, and the factors that are checked are around stability, margin of safety, and historical dividends. Investment evaluation should be reduce the impact of any failure and enhance experiment design. In many cases ‘closed world’ resources (freely available locally, and has potential use) play a significant role in reducing investment.

Diffusion: Interdisciplinary classic work in this field Diffusion of Innovations by E Rogers lists different ways and covers a broad range of research that has already happened in diffusion. I like the stages around innovation diffusion as awareness, persuasion, decision and implementation. Data collected should focus on units of adoption (individual, community, user groups, etc), rates of adoption over time, and other social aspects of the adoption.

Model: In this facet of evaluation we only focus on what model of development was used for generating and developing the innovation, and should cover business model elements and how each of the elements are being looked at. Data collection would typically include metrics (see size, time, interface and costs worksheet below from NUS below) on needs, stages of development, partner structure, productivity, etc. For example Villgro, kickstarter, and Google ventures all operate in distinct models for developing innovations.

stic time interface cost questions

Development: Entire field of Developmental Evaluation is dedicated to evaluating during innovation and applicable for complex, highly social, non-linear situations. McConnel foundation’s  practitioner guide is probably the best you can get for free.

I will cover a few methods for selecting innovation  like PUGH matrix, decision trees, possibly in another post. This will be my last post for the year 2012, and I hope to build on the momentum covering deeper and meaningful innovation topics in 2013. Happy new year…

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