I've been attracted recently to ideas that bridge the gap between possibility and short-term practicality. The game is managing the evolution of an innovation. It goes like this: first, what is this thing; second, how does it help me do what I already do; and third, what new things might I do with it. You can't jump from one to three. You have to go through the steps sequentially.
My favorite example goes like this: people at one time thought the best thing to do with a video recording device would be to take it to a live performance and situate it in the best seat in the house. The resulting recording would deliver to every viewer the perspective that could be had only by those few attending the live performance and seated in the most advantageous physical location. As a phase two conception, it makes perfect sense. You can almost hear the pundits: "now everyone gets the best seat in the house." We can only understand something using the conceptual tools we already possess. In this example, it wasn't immediately obvious that you could put the camera places where people couldn't sit at all, or that you could have multiple cameras, or film the event out of order, or in multiple locations, or add special effects, or any of the many things we associate with recorded content today. It's a classic phase two conception.
Today, in the online social space, we find the early majority figuring out phase one, and beginning the move to phase two. Consider that the phrase "social network", or maybe "social graph" is popularly understood as a collection of your friends and acquaintances. That's a very narrow perspective, but it is understandable when we consider the conceptual space the idea is entering. In time, on the other side of the hype curve, we'll grow out of it.
Anyway, one idea that I think bridges the gap is the social media release. It bridges the phase one to phase two gap for the PR and marketing professions. I've blogged about it before, because I think it's both practical and a great case study in the evolution of an idea. As it goes mainstream, rigor is added, and process evolves around it. The image here was taken from a deck created by Matt Herzberger and made available on Slideshare.
All hail the bridge builders...