Evaluating innovation socially


There are at least 3 grades to every idea socially, good ones and the seemingly good ones are obvious, and the final grade is just good to be seen with…sometime they bite you back especially when they succeed or fail spectacularly…


Making a process ‘social’ on your intranet

Consider a project plan, i.e. only the artifact and now you want to make the plan review process ‘social’ on a platform. How will it happen, say on your collaboration or other platform? My idea for this post is to enlist actions from various dimensions and possibly facet them for doing requirements to make a process ‘social’.

Content Responses:

Predominantly 2 types of responses depending on where

In-situ, in this case wherever the plan is located

While we are looking primarily at text, the responses could actually be a same content type e.g. idea on top of an idea or just a related idea, responding to an youtube video with another video, in this case responding to a plan with another plan that may be similar or related

Ex-situ, example as a link back from elsewhere or even back channels

These off site response could be within the intranet, or outside. I have not seen simple ping backs being implemented within intranets, so we are little far away from this future.

Giving some direction to content responses have been tried for example deBono’s 6 Thinking Hats or simple cost/risk/revenue comments

Emotional Responses:

We will only consider ‘like’ emotional response here, this will get overly complex when we add other emotions e.g. hope/fear, happy/sad, pride/shame

“Why only ‘like’, why not ‘dislike’?” is a fundamental question. Response to this comes from Max Weber "I am not what I think I am and I am not what you think I am; I am what I think that you think I am."

If you see too much of what I dislike, you may not like me, and I don’t like it.

So what if there are 20 ‘likes’ for the project plan in question, would you commission them for the project?

Would it affect adversely on recruitment for the project if many ‘dislike’ the plan

Social demand / Cost-benefit Actions:

In our example, Project has a plan > Project has a Manager > Plan has a reviewer > Reviewer is a volunteer > Reviewer spends time (cost) > Reviewer benefits from review > Manager benefits from review > Review costs the Manager > Review costs/benefits others (externality)

While these are not direct actions on the artifact, they provide an important basis for reasons to act. Specifically on the demand side i.e. desire to get the plan reviewed, ability to review, and willingness to review.

Network Actions:

These include share, tag, and follow type actions across a network. Every intranet worth its salt respects its users to subscribe on content, tags, person, groups, with almost no push to inbox actions. Negative action here would be removal from personal stream, reporting spam or abuse.

Another phenomenon that has to be taken into account is the back-channel of social. In the case of a plan, there may be a private email thread floating around or a twitter conversation that neither the PM nor others are even aware. But it happens socially anyways.

Here is the taxonomy for all actions from above


Ideas Dec 2009

As usual ideas are plenty and free and usually the best thing to do is share the idea and may be inspire a couple of people. You know this trait becomes a pathology if you happen to be proficient in generating ideas with a few innovation methodologies. Eventually with every opportunity you end up with numerous ideas and unable to pick the one to run with. That said predicting success or future is not my thing, still there are several selection methodologies as well, possibly in another post later on.

If you cant spark action at least clarify the concept to make it more marketable.

  1. Social entrepreneurs or the citizen sector professionals are increasing widely. Much data available elsewhere on the growth of the sector. Innovative use of social media for information exchange is growing and is evident across several popular networks. First idea is to create a matrix of functional features for the sector along the lines of wikimatrix.
  2. Second idea is create a framework (I realise the cliche effect that this word has) for measuring impact of change. Change measurement in the citizen sector in my opinion can be modelled along the lines of Human development index and can be further extended for specific changes. Core competency in development of trackable parameters, reliable measurement mechanisms and associated methods are needed. Narrative methods have huge applicability here.
  3. Testing a series of stories with  and making a campaign that will solicit preferred behaviour is the third idea. This has both sensing side and synthesis side for actually creating the right stories for marketing.

Project Artifact as Boundary Object

A project can be visualized as a opportunity for interfusion of multiple different identities of people. These identities stem from role performed in the project, technology specialization/association of the project team member, affiliation with customer through proximity on location/role/relations, among many other identities.

A general agreement to collaborate across these different roles is realized as a need in most cases and there are contractual tie ups (could be a real agreement, or defined by role and individual responsibilities) between several pairs of parties, customer-service provider, manager-resource, practice-resource, onsite-offshore. Real progress on work usually involves actions by project team members across different identities.

When identities fuse across, there is a need for objects that are “Common Point of Reference that can have different meanings attached to it, while can act as a means for coordination, alignment and translation, while catering to different concerns simultaneously” 

That was a definition of Boundary Object, all emphasis indicate the key characteristics.

Within Knowledge Management there are real good examples of boundary objects, below are some

  1. wiki page on wikipedia
  2. Knowledge Map of a project/community
  3. a story/anecdote

 If you are on a project it is likely that your deliverable, usually an artifact is also being used as a boundary object. But no one thought about it that way yet…and you compromised, some symptoms below

  1. Have you ever noticed the indifference with which core process groups fill out or create templates, while the end users of the templates find it hard to use it for any real purpose
  2. Even when you send a status report that goes through the hierarchy will the “head” be able to make sense of the original concern that you wanted to be acted on or was it all lost in translation
  3. Dev team seems to be at ease with the seemingly random project wiki, while the business team finds it real hard to get anything out or the other way around, is the wiki really that pliable
  4. The tester does not seem to be all concerned with the reds in the project plan, while the PM is unable to catch the significance of a red flag in a key test case

Mark Weiser spent the best part of his life working on Ubiquitous computing. He has another noted work as well in which he indicates all social and knowledge work is all about reducing the problem to reach an agreement , where he explains reality distortion with the classic archetype the Dilbert. And there are measures that you can use, to reduce Reality Distortion and for those academically oriented there are complex equation to represent them, but I like the cartoons better.

 The real issue I think is, can we design boundary objects and reduce the reality distortion differences over a period of time?


Imagining India

Nandan Nilekani made this point in an interview recently.
Vested interests by factions have divided the nation vertically examples that are prominent are language, caste, religion, IT-nonIT people, State etc. His point was to make significant integration at a horizontal level for example take healthcare, education, response to terrorism, transport, governance mechanisms, availability of credit among other developmental needs. If we as a country do this then we can possibly move ahead into a better future. Sounds possible.

Let us start small do you see vertical divides in your community stopping progress on the horizontal critical needs of the community. What are you going to do about it?