Posts Tagged ‘ innovation ’

Dare to create

One of the things I love most about Purdue (and makes me feel at home here) is that I get to work with so many people from all around the world. I can’t help but notice the legacies of various educational systems leave on students. These are just my observations, and I’m most probably over-generalizing here, but here I go:

We often hear complaints about the American education system: kids don’t learn the fundamentals; they can’t spell; critical thinking suffers. People coming from educational systems such as China, India, and (I’d say) Romania do learn the fundamentals. They can understand and synthesize ideas. Their work endurance is much higher. They simply put in more hours without expecting to have as much fun.

And then I saw in the news this story about a 17-year old girl who built a neural network that diagnoses breast cancer¬†that’s 99.1% sensitive to malignant cells, in her trials.

And then I stumbled upon this company that makes plush toys from your dog’s photos in order to generate funds for animal shelters. It began with a little girl’s idea and her insistence, and, of course, parents who went along with it.¬†

My observation is that people like me, who come from the Romanian, Indian, Chinese educational systems (they must have some things in common) are really good at learning, understanding, explaining information. But we are afraid to create. I know in Romania at least, we are told that we first have to master all that came before us before we can start creating. It is a daunting task, and by the time we’re done, it’s often too late. We have this reverence for the “great thinkers”… I remember how shocked I was when I first started grad school in the U.S. that you could argue with Aristotle. “What do you mean, question Aristotle? He is ARISTOTLE!” I am still amused, outraged, and in awe of American irreverence and the freedom people take (even people who don’t understand Aristotle well) to just argue – to improve, to innovate, upon Aristotle’s ideas (and by “Aristotle,” of course, I mean any big name).

Creativity and innovation cannot be attributed solely to the educational system. Culture and economy inform entrepreneurial spirit. And yet, the question has been bugging me, What kind of educational system does it take to foster creativity and innovation? What are some practices that we should include in the way we teach and learn, that will encourage and foster creative, innovative thinking?

I leave you with a TED talk by IDEO’s David Kelley on building creative confidence. It doesn’t answer my question, though, so please let me know. What have been your experiences in school that you feel have helped foster your creative, innovative thinking?

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Hey, Facebook: Relax

[cross-posted from PR Connections]

Facebook has a pattern of innovation by (knee-jerk) reaction. The newest Facebook feature? The Subscribe option.

Here is why it sucks, and here is why innovation by knee-jerking is a bad idea, and unnecessary, especially for Facebook.

Facebook is, by far, the SNS market leader.

SNS adoption

As market leader, it is unnecessary to freak out and patch-up your product with random features, in an effort to compete with Google+, Twitter, Foursquare, Instagram, etc. You’re in no danger. You can afford to think and be strategic about what features you add. You’re not going to lose market share to Google+ overnight. SNS migration is slow, and for so many people, FB is mainstream, it’s become a habit. Early adopters may migrate, but the majority will stay put.

Speaking of the majority: All these new features confuse them. They don’t know what Google+ is. They have heard of Twitter, but it is more foreign to them than Romania. They know exactly what they use Facebook for, and they are happy seeing what the crazy cousin is up to, and sharing photos of the baby with extended family. I bet you the majority, which form Facebook’s biggest market and ARE its strategic advantage, can’t keep track with all these innovations and don’t even understand them. So, by adding new, confusing, features, you’re confusing your main market. Bad idea. I do informal research whenever I present to student groups. I ask them if they’re aware of and use certain (new) Facebook features. They’re not. And these are your Digital Natives. If they can’t keep up, how about auntie Mae?!

As MacManus points out, Facebook started off as a private social network. This IS was Facebook’s strategic advantage. As Facebook adds Google+ and Twitter-like features, it loses its strategic advantage and its definition. What is Facebook these days, exactly? What does it want to be – besides “the biggest, most popular SNS in the Western hemisphere”? A product without a unique proposition is diluted, confusing. Rather than trying to be everything to everybody, I think Facebook should step back to search and find its soul (too late for that) defining, unique proposition. The danger of knee-jerk responsive innovation is that you dilute a product and forget its strategic advantage and position in the marketplace. Rather then be Google+ AND Twitter AND Foursquare AND Instagram, Facebook should figure out what it is and what it is not – and how it is different from all of the above. From the market leader position, it can afford to relax and think strategically.

* Image captured from a slideshare presentation about social media adoption and uses around the world: