How does innovation happen?
Does this sound familiar?
An innovation replaces an earlier convention and, in time, becomes a new convention. It is a cycle — a process in which insight inspires change and creates value.
We rarely recognize innovation while it’s happening. Instead, innovation is often a label applied after the fact, when the results are clear and the new convention has been established.
The process begins when external pressure or internal decay disturbs the relation between a community and its context or environment, a relationship maintained by some convention. The original convention no longer “fits.” Perhaps the context has changed, or the community, or even the convention. Someone notices the lack of fit. It causes stress and increases bio-cost. It creates enough friction, enough pain, to force its way into people’s consciousness (Dubberly, pp. 31, 35 [my emphasis]).
Hugh Dubberly is a design planner and teacher who has worked for Apple and Times Mirror. In an article in the January/February issue of Interactions, he proposes a model for innovation.
As we always tell students, a model is not a theory. A model is a way of understanding something, such as Shannon’s classic model of Information Theory.
Perception of misfit almost simultaneously gives rise to proposals for change, for reframing. It creates the opportunity for insight.
Insights move forward only when shared, articulated, prototyped. Sharing is a test: Does the insight resonate with others? Proposals for change compete for attention. Most are ignored and fade away. The changes that survive are by definition ones the community finds effective. They spread because they increase fit, because they create value (Dubberly, p. 35 [my emphasis]).
I think we need to invite proposals for change in newsrooms. We need to open up that competition for attention. We need to prototype and try and risk and fail and try again — so that news organizations can “fit” again. So that they can learn how to fit.
Even though you need a subscription to view Dubberly’s article, you can see a number of contributions to his model on the open Web here. The one shown above is here (PDF).
You could pass it around in your newsroom. Get a conversation started.
Citation: Dubberly, H. (2008). Toward a model of innovation. Interactions, 15(1), 28-36.
Interactions is published by the Association for Computing Machinery.