September, 2010

  • Steve Clayton

    Where do good ideas come from?


    I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about innovation lately – what is it, what isn’t it, who does it. Steven Johnson’s video debunks one of the most common myths around innovation. People like the idea of the epiphany or the eureka moment when it comes to innovation – the idea that someone comes up with a miraculous idea overnight.

    It just doesn’t happen that way. Or if it does, it’s extremely rare. As Steven points out, the invention of the World Wide Web took over 10 years. Often, great ideas take a long time to come to fruition. There are a number of reasons. Maybe the idea just needs some gestation, maybe the stars were not aligned to make the idea successful because they were too expensive, met a niche market or went after the wrong market. Bill Buxton gives some great examples in a recent Globe and Mail interview of technology that has been around for over 20 years that is really only starting to become popular today. He reminds us that Casio had a touch screen watch in 1984 (same year as the original Mac) where you would draw numbers on the screen using your finger to write a 1 or 3 or plus or minus. Amazing. He also talks about the IBM Simon, a touch screen mobile phone with only two buttons as UI that came out in 1983.

    [Casio T500 touch screen watch. circa 1984 & IBM Simon. circa 1983]

    Johnson in the video goes on to note the explosion of ideas is fuelled by our connectivity (the web, Twitter, Facebook, email, search etc). It makes serendipity something that can happen every day, not once a year when you’re at the library and happen to bump in to a book or person that changes your perception or shifts your understanding. 

    The final part of this trilogy of stories I have been noodling on is Scott Berkun’s new book, The Myths of Innovation where he goes in to a lot more detail around the myth of the epiphany. I’d highly recommend the book and his blog has some great content and I particularly liked Essay #58 – How to innovate right now where Scott points out that one man’s innovation is another man’s idea (i.e. there are very few truly unique ideas in the world).

    All of this, and some discussions with a few folks much smarter than me have led me to think about this murky world of innovation and ideas in a new way. It seems to me there are 3 types of innovation (I’m not sure yet of these words are the right ones so any feedback is welcome)

    1. Invention – truly new ideas that nobody has seen before or were not possible before. Try to think of some…there really aren’t that many truly new ideas.
    2. Reinvention – taking an existing idea and improving upon it. Most of what is coined as innovation today falls in to this bucket. The Dyson “hoover”, the MP3 player, the mobile phone. etc etc.
    3. Evolution – taking an existing product (that was once an invention) and evolving it, honing it. The Porsche 911 is a fine example of this. Evolved over 40+ years.


    So what’s my point? It’s really just an observation that innovation must be one of the most overused words in the tech industry (I’ll be the first to admit Microsoft overuses it) so perhaps it’s time for a reassessment of what innovation really is…or at least an honest acknowledgement that what we sometimes call innovation, is actually more like reinvention or evolution. Neither of these are bad things in my opinion…as Isaac Newton said, “If I have seen further it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants”.

    Food for thought I hope.

  • Steve Clayton

    Are thumbdrives going floppy?


    Much as I like the design of the Verbatim Store ‘n’ Go Clip-it USB Drive, I’m not going to buy one. In the past I would have snapped one of these up. I almost did a post last month when I saw the device had won the Red Dot ‘Best of the Best’ 2010 award saying we should all rush out and buy one. But I didn’t. I sat back and realised that I used a thumbdrive about once per month these days (at best). In fact the only thing I have really used one for at all of late is installing Windows 7 on one of my laptops as I have a 4GB Kingston thumbdrive setup as bootable for the install which takes <30 mins. Apart from that, I just don’t use ‘em.

    Why? You know answer I suspect….the cloud. With services like our own Live Mesh or DropBox I just can’t be bothered fishing out a drive. I’m more likely to post to my 5gb of cloud storage with Mesh to move my files around my own machine. If I’m sharing with others, I use SkyDrive’s 25gb of free storage.

    Beyond that, I have a 1TB backup device on my desk and the combination of these meets all of my needs.

    So as much as I love the design of the Store ‘n’ Go, I fear this and other thumbdrives are going the way of the floppy disk…in to extinction.

  • Steve Clayton

    My Twitter addiction



  • Steve Clayton

    Every child is an artist


    This is normally the type of stuff I would post over on my Posterous site – I moved a lot of the creative, art, random other stuff over there from this blog. In fact I have posted this one over there but decided to pose here too as I thought it was too good for you to miss…but also to remind you that my Posterous site is alive and well.

    Creative Truths


    by Shirley-Ann Dick

  • Steve Clayton

    Pinning sites in IE9



    Only today did I really start looking in any detail at pinned sites in IE9 and as you can see above, I’ve started to fill my Windows 7 taskbar with them. There are tons more out there but these are some of my favorites. In particular I like the Twitter and Facebook – as you can see below they give you some extra functionality as you right click on them in the jump list. The boundary between a website and an app is really starting to come down

    twitter   fb

    Any great ones out there I am missing?

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