Social Computing Drives Innovation


What I learned this week …came from a side conversation during some research I am working on in the innovation systems ecosystem. I was discussing the importance of different solutions in the space with this major electronic manufacturer, and he started to get very passionate when he turned the conversation to Web 2.0 and how it can improve innovation. With the work I have been doing on social computing in PLM, we ended up having a fascinating conversation about the potentials. It’s always nice when you see confirmation of a trend from an unexpected source.

Social Networking Big InnovationMy Thoughts on Connecting People to Improve Innovation

During our conversation, I kept coming back to a thought that I posted in one of my earlier discussions about the potential for social computing to revolutionalize PLM. I was trying to communicate the fact that social networking in PLM is more than just enhancing collaboration as we know it. I made the following observations:

  • Collaboration – Working and sharing ideas with people you already know
  • Social Networking in PLM – Discovering new people and ideas that can further your product innovation and engineering efforts
  • In short, the difference is about discovery

I tried to make the point that “discovery” in product innovation, product development, and engineering was the new value that can be tapped into with social computing. Social computing techniques will also enhance existing collaboration techniques, but this is the really exciting stuff to me. How can we leverage our “social” business networks to tap into the vast amount of knowledge available to us?

His Thoughts on Connecting People to Improve Innovation

Without sharing any of my views, our conversation turned from the ability to search for product knowledge to the need to search for the people associated with the product knowledge. It was a totally unexpected shift in the conversation, because it is not directly in line with the particular research I was discussing with him. Of course that is what made the conversation so valuable. He told a story that was very similar to my past experience. One of the key values in finding engineering or innovation knowledge is to then find the people associated with it. In turn, the value may come from the discovery of the deliverables (designs, research, products, etc.) but also from collaborating with the creator of the deliverables. After all, there is knowledge in the deliverables. But there is probably even more knowledge available from the man or woman that created the knowledge!

So given recent conversations about putting the people in PLM, people centric PLM, and focusing on people vs. process in PLM in the PLM blogosphere, I thought it was great to see the intersection of PLM with social computing and innovation. Very exciting. I hope you found it interesting. Who knew? I didn’t, if you did let us know about it. And I look forward to sharing more of the conversation as that research makes its way to the public eye.


  1. This is one reason why resource management functionality gets to be important as part of this approach. You need some place to store and access all of those skills profiles we all hated to do when HR sent them to us.

    Web 2.0 tools can provide an easy way (or easier way, depending on your perspective) to approximate this function, i.e., you are the sum of your interests. The tools should have some way to attach items in the ubiquitous “tag clouds” to YOURSELF, making your skills and interests more apparent to a broader community. This is a necessary but not sufficient condition for discovery to START…who knows what will happen when you contact that expert on the other side of the globe that does not know you from Adam.

  2. Stan,
    I think you are 100% on the mark.

    The technology to allow discovery is a critical step, but depending on the scenario it could also drive a lot of new business scenarios. If the person doesn’t know you directly, or though a trusted friend, it would make for a difficult interaction. Even if they are comfortable with who you are, there are typically a lot of considerations relating to how to engage and who owns the IP. Even if the person is a part of your company, how are they motivated to help? Are they compensated for their time collaborating with a colleague in a different business unit halfway around the globe? The technology for discovery is just one piece of the puzzle.

    The business model, processes, and rules of engagement will need te be worked out as well. That is why I expect that a lot of social computing and social networking capabilities will be rolled out within an organization first, with more external “discovery” limited to a smaller subset of people and companies. There are simply less business barriers to internal adoption, although the benefits of more open innovation approaches are certainly being explored heavily.

    Thanks Stan,

  3. Jim, I think Social Computing and PLM intersection is important because of two reasons:

    1. You have model to discover knowledge from people you don’t know (i.e. your potential and existent customers, partners etc.)

    2. You can leverage “wisdom of crowd” to innovate. In my view, services like will be in the future will become main drivers for designing new products.

    Just my thoughts, Oleg.