Monday, December 30, 2013

Innovation - Catching the Mystery

When in late August at the 26th International Cartographic Conference hundreds of experts on mapping flocked over the course of five days the conference rooms even an outsider of this "narrow", though in our connected times more than relevant, field could attach to the various sessions. The reason for that: everyone of us has had a map in his or her hand for sure (if not in paper, or computer screen then on a mobile device).

The theme of the conference was "From Pole to Pole" and Prof. Manfred Buchroithner laid out in a radio interview the specific aim was to bring regions outside the scope of easy reach into awareness. The use of latest laser technology, data transformation, and latest display technology (e.g. Plastic Logic) were the focus.

Could there come out real new and value creating innovation out of such a conference, which by definition is often bounded to experts only? (Creative Commons)
In a WIRED article dated back in 2011 author Mark Brown laid out what the Robust Robotics Lab at MIT was working on in the field of UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles), "Kinect-carrying drone automatically builds 3D maps of rooms". The project Archaecopter (filming archeological sites) jointly done together by the HTW Dresden and the Freie Universität Berlin shows a more recent application also for "indoor" use.

Singularity University Spin-offs Matternet and ARIA Logistics that focus more on the transportation side of this new technology innovation. However there is lots in common between the different application fields, especially in terms of technology (behind it).

Too often is technology best to be used in our close vicinity, and personal needs (nitty gritty things we encounter every day, or several times in our lifetime that we wish to faster and easier to happen), and yet it often seems to need the detour via some special purpose field from which the technology may come into general public use, and become a true innovation (other than just an invention). What one often encounters (as myself this morning proposing to an employee of a kitchen shop using autonomous UAVs for 3D indoor mapping for flats or houses) is an instant of fear that comes of the listener to new ideas. The instant reaction was, "Honestly I am not in technology. Actually we are using the traditional methods, that is sufficient. We don't need nothing new!"

That got me more than thinking (once again) in which way innovation can be brought into the world without triggering fear in the people's minds who will be in one or the other way effected by technology?

Edgar H. Schein's paper on "Kurt Lewin's Change Theory in the Field and in the Classroom: Notes Toward a Model of Managed Learning 1"may shed some light on why innovation is so difficult to achieve.

My personal TAKE AWAY:
It often comes to real breakthrough innovations when least expected (but the underlying forces, including timing and needs of stakeholders have come together in the suitable way). Most often what made the innovation become reality was a need, and a direct connection to the real-life experiences of the people who then make it possible.

Share your experience in the comments if you like.

Cheers, Ralf

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