The Web as a Platform for Innovation

The discussion of the impact of the Web in the last 20 years and predictions of what it might look like in 2030 has continued with many bloggers.  I am tracking the conversation in a wiki document in the new Innovation & Research community on the EMC Community Network.  Andrea Meyer wrote a great post on the topic and introduced me to Jim Todhunter of Invention Machine, who agreed to have a discussion on the impact of the Web on Innovation.

JIM TODHUNTER | CTO of Invention Machine

Invention Machine is a innovation software company. Its technology, Invention Machine Goldfire, helps companies deliver the right products the first time and makes innovation a repeatable, sustainable process. Jim discusses building the high performance innovation organization on his blog.

Stuart Miniman: Looking at things through the lens of innovation, how has the Web changed business and innovation in the last 20 years?

Jim Todhunter: It has had a huge impact, especially in these times where we are still struggling to get out of this global financial crisis.  The importance of innovation as a mechanism to build value for companies is becoming greater and greater.  The web has become vital infrastructure for innovation by creating an environment of pervasive information.  As an example, a client of ours, a plumbing company needed to take lead out of pipes.  Through the Web, they found a solution from another country, which solved their problem and led to a partnering opportunity.

SM: I love examples of how the barriers of geography and industry are broken down to allow information and ideas to be shared everywhere.

JT: This leads to the second area where the Web has a huge impact on business and innovation.  This is the notion of connectedness; business to business, business to consumer and consumer to consumer.  We can see a lot of this in the expansion of social media platforms.  This is helping customers in the notion of open innovation where businesses can bring external constituents into the process of innovation.  The Web has become an infrastructure platform for global innovation where the long tail of information that  consumers build can be leveraged.  For example, a customer of Invention Machine, Leggett & Platt, has created a 70/30 plan where 30% of their innovation is created from sources outside of the company [see Leggett & Platt podcast].

SM: I saw a great episode of Frontline which discussed the changing impact of the Web.  Over the decades, people have considered that technology has been a force of removing people from communicating.  We are now at a point where technology can be leveraged to pull people together and allow us to be interconnected.

JT: Absolutely, the volumes of information that are being created as people are pulled together is immense.  People need to not only generate information, but use tools to be able to process the information.

SM: We’ve seen many changes in the last 20 years, what do we think the Web will look like in 2030?

JT: I think that the current trends of bringing consumers more directly into the environment will continue.  The Web will fade into the background and become just another service, like phone service, which we use without considering how it works.  The consumer experience will take the lead role.  Task based applications will allow people to do things without having to think about how they are done.

SM: Will this help innovation or will technology become so pervasive that people won’t have any knowledge and will be so consumed that they won’t be able to think of innovations?

JT: I think that the needs of consumer will be put first and the technology will serve the consumer.  In business, the Web has become a disruptive platform for redefining the way that different classes of companies do business.  This has not only had a positive impact on businesses, but on consumers.

Listen to the full 6 1/2 minute interview with Jim Todhunter here (click the play button below) or on Cinchcast.


What are your predictions for the future of the Web?  If you are new to this site and interested in continuing the discussion of innovation, please consider subscribing to this blog.

Stuart Miniman

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