Technology improves our lives in many ways, but overreliance on it can cause us to "dumb down." Technology has a tendency to fill in or take over certain tasks for the consumer, relieving us of cognitive activities that we once did ourselves. These cognitive activities get weak or atrophied. We get lazy and dependent on the new technology to do our work for us. We become dumb.
Web 2.0 social tools are swelling all around us, and the Fortune 100 are embracing them for two purposes - managing and engaging the internal employee base and managing and engaging the external customer base. Wikis, blogs, mashups, and social networks will improve productivity, connectivity, knowledge transfer, and ultimately profitability if deployed correctly.
What about innovation? Can the Web 2.0 environment increase, enable, accelerate, and deepen innovation within companies? I am impressed with the emergence of tools such as Wridea and others that have taken on the challenge. But I have yet to see one that works effectively. I am trying to figure out why. Are these applications using the wrong innovation tool or process? Do they have an effective innovation process, but deploy it incorrectly? Or, are people not using the application in an optimal way?
Embracing social media and the myriad of Web 2.0 tools is more challenging than just setting up a Facebook account or adding a “Follow Me on Twitter” link. A lot of organizations struggle with how to take advantage of the power of Web 2.0. Where do you start? How do you tie these new tools in with your current website? How do you make sure you keep your current constituents happy while moving the organization to a more networked world?
For this month’s LAB, we will use the innovation template called Task Unification, one of five templates of the corporate innovation method called S.I.T.. To use Task Unification, we take a component of a product, service, system, etc, and we assign an additional job to it. For this exercise involving Social Media, here is how it works. Imagine your company has a large base of employees in the field. For example, suppose your company has a large sales force or an extensive network of delivery or service people. Consider the U.S. Postal Service, for example, with an army of postal workers and letter carriers at over 32,000 post offices. A key question for these organizations like the USPS is: how to get more value out of this fixed asset? Let's use Task Unification.
I start by visiting a site that inventories all the social web tools: GO2WEB20.NET. I randomly pick an application from this list. Then I assign the internal field resources to "use" this application to increase revenue/profits for the company. Using our example of the postal service, I create this statement: "Postal delivery staff have the additional 'job' of using XXXX (web application) to increase USPS performance."
The key is to use the non-obvious applications for creating new, innovative services. Here are examples I created using Task Unification: