On the Relationship between Trust and Innovation

As Design Public III inches ever closer, we’ve been trying to articulate, and more deeply understand for ourselves, what we mean by Trust, Participation and Innovation, and how they relate to each other. Over the next weeks, we will be sharing our thoughts and research on these questions, the first of which is concerned with trust and how it relates to creativity, and by extension, innovation.

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This past year has been rife with protest, from the Ram Lila grounds to Tahrir Square and Zucotti Park, all of which appear to have sprung from a breakdown in trust: society, or the public at large, seems to have lost faith in their governments as well as private corporations, no longer trusting that these entities are working in their interest. This breakdown in society’s trust in its largest, most long-standing institutions is a crisis with very wide-ranging consequences in the social as well political sphere.

Anna Hazare en route to Ram Lila grounds

At CKS, however, we are most concerned with how this crisis of trust impacts innovation, which as we see it, is twofold. [Read more…]

Design Public III: Why We Focus on Trust, Participation and Innovation

Design Public began as a conversation around the question of how design thinking and innovation can be used by organizations and actors outside the private sector, specifically government organizations and social sector agencies. As we enter this third edition of the Design Public Conclave, we see not only that our questions and deliberations have become so much more sophisticated, layered and granular, but also that there is a clear need to move beyond mere conversation, to the actual establishment of diverse consortia, partnerships and alliances that will bring this agenda to practical realization.

At our first conclave in Delhi, we focused on the question of Governance Innovation: Can or should government agencies use user-centered design solutions to develop and deploy better solutions? The easy answer is yes, but the question remains, where can we find the special expertise that allows them to do this? Out of this question was born the concept of what we call the Bihar Innovation Lab. [Read more…]

Sharing Sticky Knowledge

What do we really know about innovation? We style ourselves innovation consultants, but what is the specific nature of our expertise?

We held a workshop at the CKS innovation lab in Delhi earlier this week to generate provisional answers to this large question. We asked senior members of our innovation team to write out on post its particular examples of knowledge or skill or other capabilities and insights that were resident within our organization.

A wide variety of responses were received, and these ranged from highly formalized forms of knowledge, including academic and professional disciplines in which team members had been trained, to entirely informal and residual kinds of knowledge, which gave innovation experts a kind of gut or feel for how an innovation process was going to work out, and whether it was on track or not. In the middle were a variety of different kinds of skills, more or less tangible or abstract. There were also value systems and elements of a shared worldview, something we chose to call a ‘learned philosophy of action.’

At CKS we have developed formal training tools to address many of these tangible and ephemeral forms of knowledge, so as to try and provide a window into the way we work for new recruits. Sometimes these training tools have even been requested and used by clients. In many cases, however, we find that the training tool is fully understood only after the learner has been through the innovation process it seeks to provide knowledge about.

While some kinds of knowledge can be easily transferred to others, there are types of knowledge that are inherently sticky — that is to say, knowledge that is inherently ingrained within one’s own lived experience and therefore nearly impossible to share. Therefore, any type of training program for innovation would necessarily need to be composed of an array of different modules and activities, with the correct balance of theoretical grounding and practical application of that theory. This is the kind of immersive approach to innovation training that we are now in the process of developing.

Technology and the New Digital Individual – Liberation or Enslavement?

The many revolutions happening around the world, from Ramlila Maidan to Tahrir Square, have been, or are being, at least in part fueled and propelled by the technologies we use, especially online social media. And at the same time, governments are imposing restrictions on internet use to limit its use for resistance, such as the Egyptian internet curtailing in response to the Arab Spring. Moreover, quite apart from the use of social media for protest, lies the massive debate of privacy and the erosion of the private space through the overuse of social media. The fact that platforms like facebook and twitter allow for, and even encourage, constant updates on every facet of one’s life, has led skeptics to claim that the public declaration of so much personal information can and will result in greater governmental control.

This debate, of whether technology is a controlling influence or a liberating influence, is extremely pertinent in these ever more networked times. At the Names not Numbers conference in Mumbai last week, a panel comprised of Aditya Dev Sood, Julia Hobsbawm, Nishant Shah and Dan Lloyd had an hour-long discussion on this topic, where some fascinating insights were offered.

Aditya Dev Sood brought up the issue of trust in relation to the technologies we use, offering the theory that there is, globally, a crisis of trust – where people worldwide are finding that their governments, bureaucracies and institutions have failed them – and which has therefore led to new standards of trust: mutuality, probity, reputation. He went on to propose that “these new standards of trust come from the online, social-mediated networked interactions — being online transforms our understanding of what trust can achieve for us and what kind of trust is necessary for us to interact with the world.”

Dr. Sood went on to talk about how social media platforms allow for the kind of instant and widespread connectivity that increases collaboration and innovation, resulting in some really creative uses of social media, such as in the Occupy Wall Street protests. It also shows how social media platforms allow people to respond to new developments faster, more creatively and more effectively than traditional institutions – private or public – and bureaucracies.

Dan Lloyd, speaking more on the use of social media in protests, talked about the recent attempt by the Mubarak regime in Egypt to ban all international telecommunications and internet during the protests. The only reason, he said, that the Egyptian government was able to go so far in regulating and restricting the telecommunications networks is because they maintain a monopoly on these networks, especially the international internet gateways. “There are very few countries in the world who would have been able to take these steps, and the number of countries that are maintaining that monopoly control over networks is diminishing rapidly. The number of platforms and networks that people are now able to connect on has expanded so rapidly that it makes it impossible for governments to control what happens and to impose their will through these communications networks.”

Julia Hobsbawm then redirected the conversation to the more personal ramifications of the heightened connectivity offered by the internet. She spoke of how, though she was overwhelmingly in favor of viewing social media as a liberating influence, there are some unintended consequences of this incredible liberation, such as the fact that sometimes it allows for the public to use its ugly ‘mob-voice,’ there are issues with bullying, the phenomenon of trolling, people are abusive, and you find that women are often more vulnerable to this. Moreover, our lives are coming to be so overly dependent and constantly connected to the telecommunications grid, that we find that there is a growing need to disconnect, to make the time for a “technology Sabbath.”

The discussion touched upon several other aspects of the large question of how technology affects both the individual and the public. Listen to the complete podcast here.

Design!publiC II Officially Begins!

The much anticipated second edition of the Design Public Conclave is finally underway! Aditya Dev Sood, founder and CEO of the Center for Knowledge Societies (CKS), opened with a word of welcome.

He welcome all participants to the event. He spoke about how Design Public was not a static conferencing platform, but something like a movement, attracting new participants and stakeholders over time, all invested in the question and challenge of innovation.

[Read more…]