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The Ethos of the Internet and a Culture of Innovation

Source: In an Open-Source Society, Innovating by the Seat of Our Pants

The Internet isn’t really a technology. It’s a belief system, a philosophy about the effectiveness of decentralized, bottom-up innovation. And it’s a philosophy that has begun to change how we think about creativity itself.

The ethos of the Internet is that everyone should have the freedom to connect, to innovate, to program, without asking permission. No one can know the whole of the network, and by design it cannot be centrally controlled. This network was intended to be decentralized, its assets widely distributed. Today most innovation springs from small groups at its “edges.”

This technical strategy has led to the creation of a gigantic network of far-flung innovators who develop standards with one another and share the products of their work in the form of free and open-source software. The architecture of the Internet and its abundance of free software and components has driven down the cost of manufacturing, distribution and collaboration — of innovation. It used to cost millions of dollars to start a software company. Today, for little or no money, entrepreneurs are able to develop and release a “minimum viable product” and test it with real users on the Internet before they have to raise any money from investors. In their earliest iterations, Facebook, Yahoo and Google were running in dorm rooms and labs before the founders had left college or had raised outside money.

Neoteny, … means the retention of childlike attributes in adulthood: idealism, experimentation and wonder. In this new world, not only must we behave more like children, we also must teach the next generation to retain those attributes that will allow them to be world-changing, innovative adults who will help us reinvent the future.

Source: Creating the Innovation Culture

The innovation culture, of course, is likewise an expression of people, their past, and their current beliefs, ideas, and behaviors. They make innovation happen, and they do so consistently over time.

Since the innovation culture is not all that common among today’s organizations, we know that it’s not so easy to create one. A key reason for this is that the characteristics needed to achieve an innovation culture are not seen as the some ones that are needed in successful companies.

This, actually, is where the genius of firms like Apple, Cisco, and Toyota lies, because their leaders seem to have found a way to standardize the process of innovation. I know that the last sentence seems to express a contradiction – how do you standardize innovation? But that’s exactly the point (and that’s the same point that is made in the title of my book Permanent Innovation). They have created a true innovation culture, which is precisely what it means to make the creation of novelty a consistent output of an organization’s culture.2

Source: Intentional Innovation

Innovation is about what’s new and what’s next. It’s about that exciting leap forward into uncharted territory. Innovation is also about what works… better. It’s about that incremental step forward that makes old ideas new again and repurposes the familiar into the unexpected. Innovation—whether small or incremental, large or disruptive—is about change. For most of us the idea of “innovation” is laced with positive and desirable assumptions about something that will be shinier, faster, cooler, better than whatever we have. For some, innovation also comes with questions about whether we really need so much that is “new”—and if the new things are so great, then how do we help everyone to get them?

An innovative culture is a combination of the right technology, culture and people, working together seamlessly to deliver innovative solutions to important organizational problems. Is there an off-the-shelf blueprint or formula that can guarantee innovation? Absolutely not. But there are best practices and core principles that can be used to guide your effort. That is, if they are intelligently adapted and applied to your specific organizational culture.

Accept wonder. Ask questions. Seek answers. Drive innovation.

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