Running notes from the second European Futurists Conference in Lucerne (Switzerland).
Matt Locke, head of innovation at BBC Future Media & Technology: "We're moving from the first wave of innovation, characterized by high barriers to launch, long development cycles, R&D focused on core infrastructure, to a second wave defined by low barriers to innovation, enterprise-level tools available for free, extremely fast development cycles, more activity in services and content innovation than in core infrastructure technology, and innovation happening among users through collaborative social networks". He shows a series of projects that the BBC is working on to respond to (and try to leverage) the new innovation landscape, including:
- Tell me more: a knowledge-transfer project with the Arts & Humanities Research Council, by bringing together two dozen people from the BBC and as many from academia, putting them in a room, facilitate, and see where the conversation goes. "When projects came up, we could support them. This showed that innovation is a form of social exchange, rather than a formal project/process".
- Backstage: a developer community (about 1500 currently) with a range of BBC contents made available for free. People can post ideas about the kind of things they would like to see built, or they can build prototypes on how to use these contents: ways to display news in a geographic context mashing up BBC newsfeeds with online maps; novel ways to create archive timelines or display archive search results; and an interesting index of audience proximity (my naming): on the left, a list of the BBC hierarchy of stories; on the right, a list of what the users are actually reading. Today's page says: "BBC News is 23% in touch with what we are reading".
- Reboot: people were asked to send in suggestions for the redesign of the BBC homepage: see the gallery of submitted designs and prototypes and the winning entry
- (I blogged in May a series of other examples presented by Matt's colleague Philip Jay at another conference, and a vision speech by the BBC director-general Mark Thompson)
Pros and cons of innovation in this new environment. The pros first:
- shifts strategy from "designing for users" to "users as designers"
- encourages open structures across inventories, assets and networks
- encourages innovation as a social, collaborative, iterative process: innovation comes out of conversations
- the "perpetual beta", building services and going live fast rather than having long development cycles: closing the gap between research and implementation
Then the cons:
- need to manage expectations: when you start to have these conversations with your users, you can't turn them off, you can't stop supporting these projects
- need to ensure that "lead-users" within the organization can/will participate
- need "organizational hacking", creating paths for innovation and remove roadblocks within the organization
- issues of ownership and intellectual property need to be handled carefully
- need a cultural shift from periodic delivery to perpetual delivery: we're no longer producing a periodic broadcast, we are engaged in a continuous conversation