Weeknotes Weeks 89-90

Helsinki is under a heavy blanket of snow which has added a lovely bit of chaos to the streets. We're happy to accept the occasionally frightening skid-stop of a lumbering bus if the weather also brings with it amplified levels of daylight reflecting off the ground cover.

Last week Marco was in Brussels sharing HDL's work at the Design and Learning conference. I was away in Madrid doing the same with a group of innovation researchers sponsored by the Spanish National Research Council. The participants were a mix of academic and professionals which resulted in some productive friction as we adjusted to the language and concerns of our peers. I was particularly interested in Steve Flowers' work on defining different categories of user-led innovation. So often this term is treated as a homogenous lump of stuff, but Flowers breaks it down into five different levels of involvement that scale up in their innovation potential.

  • Users provide feedback
  • Users produce content for existing products
  • Novel use of existing products
  • Modification of existing products
  • Creation of novel products

As he pointed out, not all user innovation is bound for the market. Sometimes (a lot of the time?) innovation, user-led or not, produces weird results. Such as a disused MiG mounted on a train used to clear snow off of train tracks.

Image borrowed from <a href="http://www.darkroastedblend.com/2009/08/jet-engines-on-trucks-for-fun-and.html">this collection of truck-mounted jet engines</a>.
Image borrowed from this collection of truck-mounted jet engines.

Drew Hemment shared his work on the FutureEverything festival which he sees as a vehicle for social innovation. The broad range of activities they're conducting is too much to go into here but it includes bubble races (PDF) used to measure urban heat island affects. Drew gave us a peek at an almanac of sorts which FutureEverything is now working on to share their methods with others looking to do something similar. It's encouraging to see such an open sharing of experience. We try to do the same thing with our How-Tos.

Meanwhile, Justin was in Germany with part of the Low2No team. He's been keeping weeknotes over at the Low2No site and I highly recommend reading them for the full scoop on how that project is coming along.

I'll close this update with a hearty congratulations to the SIX Social Innovation Exchange for their successful bid to create and EC-sponsored Social Innovation Initiative for Europe. HDL is happy to be part of the advisory board for this project and we look forward to being part of it.