Monday, February 4, 2013

An evening of Insights from Innovators

I recently attended talks by two leading innovators. They were Ramji Raghavan of the Agastya Foundation and Dr. Lalitesh K of Google. I share what I learnt from their own sharing.
1.       Innovation has a new arena. It is out of the closet of enterprises. It is in the needs of consumers, and not in those of enterprises, that innovation will thrive.
2.       Poverty in material terms can be framed in terms of information access problems. An information abyss co-exists with poverty. What was once known as information asymmetry is now reframed as the valley of despair. For those who do not pay their ‘knowledge tax’ create an avoidable void. Social inequity is a symptom of the information abyss.
3.       In computing, cognitive divides are subtler and perhaps more damaging than digital divides themselves.
a.       Emotional responses to text are diminishing with the rise of broadband access. With more information being read online, the thresholds for emotional arousal on visual media are contested with the sense of hearing. This is why video content with audio sounds richer in emotive content. 
b.      Information search is targeted at new results. Text based search is giving way to video search. Tactile and visual information may be demanded even more. So You Tube is the default search engine for new generations on the net.
4.       Crowd-sourcing, crowd-mediation and crowd dissemination make web 2.0 based platforms participatory and yet challenging because of unintended consequences that the medium holds.
5.       In our times, Facebook, Google, Amazon and the like, compute stochastic models of trust without much obtrusion using search affinity and interaction networks and operationalise 'trust' in their own way.
6.       Google made 'safe' calls on building Google Maps with Map Maker software in much like the prosumer society of the Tofflerian Third-Wave. While parts of Northern Europe, and most of US and Australia had Google Maps, the tipping points were in the rest of the world, where users were given the power to create maps online. Most people would want to do the right thing, most of the time. Hence, even in late starter locations like Pakistan800000 people affected by floods could be reached out to by the UN recently.
7.       Firms bets are large and can cause revolutions merely because they seek to boil the ocean than fill up a bucket with water. They do not also know what to expect in the sense that they allow emergence of phenomena through universality of access to information.
8.       Paradigms that are fiercely defended will find it difficult to move as fast as the radical shifts these firms engender on our finger tips. Mobile internet will allow resume editing on handheld devices with handwriting skills in the next 5 years itself. Broadband access will be tested by a demography of users who are emotionally blind on text, and text-repellent on video and images.  Yet, any such change has to originate in at least one person. That change will find support if the person stays the distance with the compelling idea that is put out there in easy language that masses will relate to.
9.     The boundaries of trust - along with its inherent drivers and manifest behaviors would be so fluid that our traditional frames of analysis will get redefined very, very often.
10.   For societal shifts to occur, the absorptive capacity of its people needs renewal. If at least two thinking skills are addressed the social system could tip over. These are a) Cause-effect thinking and b) Creative Thinking
11.   The value of curiosity reaches its heights when continuous concentrated introspection unravels as passion.
12.   Observers give new meaning to phenomena that pass us by. Else it takes a crisis to get us to think differently. The shift in confidence from learned helplessness to learnt optimism is the challenge of developing economies.
13.   If people who do the work of teaching and facilitation are from within the system, change ensues faster and surer, both. Catalysing the internals may need transformational leadership or external facilitation, and sometimes-  maybe both!
14.   In rural India two significant milestones are worth noting.
a.       Google’s Rural Maps are up due to Kerala’s CNR Nair, a retired government servant who despite cancer made it a passion to map rural Kerala on Google Maps.
b.      Parents of children who learn science through mobile science labs like that of the Agastya Foundation, are keen on learning Astronomy and chemistry, as the visual treats these provide hold prime attention!
15.   Competition can be reframed if we elevate the dimension of its threat. E.g. Ask the question, have we solved a problem, that has not yet been solved? Competition is no longer the red ocean then!

Evidently there are more implications, I will muse on in times to come!

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