Hustle The Most Episode 30: A Few minutes on Social Innovation
We have a few new listeners specifically for this episode so I want to just take a minute to lay the general framework for the Hustle The Most Podcast. The podcast usually consists of a story or an experience that has happened to me at some point in my life and I look back at that story through a retrospective lens and talk about what I learned from that experience and how it has shaped me to become the person that I am today.
In the design world we talk a lot about process. Sometimes we talk about color and assigning color to a specific job. Being that some people are visual learners and retain information differently, color is a good way for some to retain information whereas numbers can be a good way for others to remember things. This is why when we go to a parking garage at say the airport you will have pillars or signage that has a color like yellow and a character set like B9. This way it gives all types of learners an opportunity to remember when they parked. I apply a similar thinking to reading and assigning color to a specific job. In my books I use Blue, Orange and Pink highlighters and sticky notes to quickly identify specific things. Pink is for things that I find insightful, Orange is good information and Blue is for “new information” meaning information that I am seeing for the first time in what I am reading. So per this assignment I want to talk about a pink and a blue section that I find interesting.
So specifically in Chapter 7 at the top of page 116 Mulgan states: “In short, at the foundation of social innovation is a belief in people’s capacity to create, to shape and experiment, and a bias against both over-confident top-down control or planning and the fatalistic view that nothing works.”
My take away from this is: this is really about being an optimist and having confidence in people to be creative and design and iterate on solutions. Coming in with a non-bias view point allows you to create solutions that don’t lean one way or another and that are free of barriers and constraints. This is the mentality of designing for the pie in the sky and then reeling it back in to fit the real world criteria in which you are solving for.
The second section that I find interesting is a blue highlighted section where on 121 Mulgan says, “There’s been a surge of interest in open innovation and user-driven innovation, both interesting examples of ideas from the social field being adopted in business.”
To really get this it helps to have an understanding of “closed innovation vs open innovation”.
There is an easy way to understand the difference between open and closed innovation. Open innovation is used by companies that are open to and influenced by external sources and external knowledge while closed innovation is usually used by companies developing things in a more self-contained internal innovative environment.
Netflix is a company that has thrived to do open innovation by collaborating with open source platforms, developers, designers and innovators. There are a lot of large corporations that have adopted the use of open innovation, companies like Lego, Samsung, General Electric and even Coca-Cola. A company like Apple actually takes a mixed approach where they use both open and closed innovation. They use closed innovation for designing and developing software with a strict “no outside implementations allowed, ever” policy but then use open innovation when they manage their “time to market” strategy for that product.
I feel that if we are designing solutions and experiences for the people by the people that open innovation should be the preferred approach. The outside perspectives, knowledge and lived experiences can collaboratively help inform and shape the parts and pieces of any experience that you are trying to create, leading to better informed outcomes.
So let’s talk about what did I really learn from all this
I learned that there is no one singular definition to social innovation. There is a process to solving analytical problems where we take the subjectivity out and keep the objectivity in order to keep emotion out of the equation.
This usually works best on paper. In the world of social innovation the subjectivity is what gives the issues color and context which creates empathy. Social innovation issues are large wicked hairy problems and I feel that empathy should always be a part of the conversation but that’s just a small part of what’s needed to create social change.