Good Thinking on Social Computing for Product Development

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I would like to give you a quick peek into some blog posts by Evan Yares on social product innovation that I think are worth sharing, and that bring up a good question. Where will social solutions for engineering and product development actually come from? For those of you that know me, I have been fascinated by the intersection of product innovation and social computing. And if you know me, you probably know that I have some opinions… but let’s start with what Evan has to say. And in the interest of not musing too long, let’s start with his first post which brings up an interesting metaphor for social product development – the humble pencil.

Evan’s Thoughts

First, it is great to see such great work and a refreshing approach. Evan is wicked smart and has a unique way of seeing things (Don’t worry, I blocked Evan’s IP address so this doesn’t go to his head). Evan’s musing on I, pencil really made me think. People have been collaborating on developing products for years. The point from the essay was that no one person knows how to make a pencil. It is the work of many with different skills and purposes (think supply chain, not final production). Evan’s takeaway from it is “How do we give people better tools to help them work together, and make better products?” – which is exactly the point, isn’t it?

Implications for Manufacturers – My Thoughts

My thoughts you ask? You didn’t? Sorry, I will share them anyway. To me, the idea of social product development offers the ability for a supply chain to collaborate in parallel. Perhaps before they are even a supply chain, but more of a collection of capabilities and know-how. As I,pencil points out – not many in the supply chain knew (or cared) about the pencil – they just played their role as a means to their own end. It took someone else to pull all of the pieces together. But what if we get all of the right skills together in a (virtual) room to invent a better pencil? What if the materials experts, the mechanical experts, and those that are looking for a writing solution (and perhaps a marketing visionary to represent voice of the customer as well) shared ideas interactively without filtering in between levels based on what one person thinks is possible or a good idea? To me, that is the promise. Of course there will be lots of very tactical (but important and valuable) uses that simply mimic an engineer walking down the hall to talk to another engineer – but the promise of co-creation and co-innovation is even more exciting! I firmly believe that social computing will expand the possibilities of what humans can invent by connecting more minds and allowing people access to more of the world’s collective knowledge. And now that we have an iPad 2 with a camera, maybe we just do have a better pencil (and paper, and …). But even with a great visionary (thanks Steve Jobs), products like the iPad relied on an innovative supply chain to pull it all together.

So how do we capture this opportunity? Evan’s next post was on the future infrastructure for social product development. I will follow shortly with some thoughts there as well, starting with what Evan has to say. It’s great to have Evan’s voice exploring these topics, we are all better when we share and expand on each other’s ideas.

So that was a quick peek into some recent reflection on social innovation, I hope you found it interesting. Does the research reflect your experiences? Do you see it differently? Let us know what it looks like from your perspective. And feel free to join Kalypso and others in the upcoming Spike Summit to hear me share some research on trends in how companies are using social innovation. It should be a great discussion. And I think what you hear will surprise you.