Once I finish Rheingold’s Smart Mobs, I will revisit this topic of social software and innovation :
Steelcase’s research, some done in conjunction with Conifer, asks these questions: What kind of spaces enhance innovation, and what kind of space detracts from innovation? And, even better: Where does innovation live [in the workplace]? Answer: In the linkages between people.
And yes, this is the very territory that the social networking folks are working on. One way to look at social software would be, does the software allow for the right kind of linkages between people, the right kind of access to the space where innovation lives? In their talk, Tom and Jason set forth some “Principles of Innovation Space, and I include them here because I wonder if these same principles would apply to the “space” that a group creates/accesses by using social software, or if the entire model would be different. Here are the principles:
Persistence: Supports the continuous refinement of the team’s “shared mind.”
Intent: Not just meeting space, but shared work space in which sustained, purposeful efforts take place and leave traces behind.
Interaction: Encourages and explicitly drives interaction, bridges the digital and physical worlds.
Dynamism: Purpose of the space changes as intentions and goals change.
Flexibility: Supports change modes in innovation.
It seems to me that these would be excellent principles to apply to social software. But that’s not my field, so I’m totally open to comments there. And of course, if you talk about social software in terms of disruptive innovations, then at some point (perhaps already bubbling up now) there’ll be some kind of software that allows us to interact and work together in ways that we can’t even imagine yet. If it’s really disruptive, it will allow us to work together in ways that even its creator(s) didn’t imagine.