Are you able to estimate the number of mistakes in your own writing if you’re not good at spelling? After all, you can’t see the mistakes, because if you could, you wouldn’t be bad at spelling. Not being fully able to identify our own weaknesses means that we are invariably over optimistic about how much we know about a subject, or how good we are at something. This also presents a significant hurdle to self-development, because we don’t know what might be possible. How do you gain insight into things you don’t know, how do you take a step over that threshold, and what is the right approach to being innovative?
Creating new connections
The more you know, the better you are able to realise what you don’t know. In simple terms, that’s the basis of science. Traditionally, scientists start an investigation by identifying a motivating research question, collecting data, drawing conclusions and thereby providing an answer to the research question. Depending on the outcome, follow-up research can then be conducted, and essentially that’s how the world becomes increasingly smarter. This research method is, however, limited by the creative capacity of the scientists. In the modern, digital world, this is invariably inadequate; today’s world has changed so much that research can also be conducted in a different way.
In the era of the Internet of Things (IoT), many devices are equipped with sensors that generate a wealth of data, also known as big data. This means that scientists now have the opportunity to start by collecting and analysing huge volumes of data, searching for correlations and causal connections, drawing conclusions from this or considering what problems and challenges they can resolve. This approach differs 180 degrees from a classic research strategy and along with it, researchers are more likely to encounter issues whose existence they were not yet aware of. In turn, this new insight will produce (unforeseen) innovation.
Analysing and optimising in practice
Google seeks to analyse behavioural patterns from data in Google Calendar, Google Maps, websites visited and keywords. These are all then used to create a profile of an individual or group of people. As the profiles present new insights, the service provision is modified accordingly. Applied to an office example, behavioural patterns can be identified from data produced by sensors. The data will reveal behavioural patterns, movements and preferences, thus allowing the office design and experience to then be optimised.
In summary, exploring domains, habits and behaviours that we didn’t know existed, produces new and valuable insight. These opportunities offer organisations an innovative and competitive lead in the market. Technology makes it possible to find insight outside the human intellect. So to be really innovative, try not to think in terms of the problem. Allow technology to take you beyond the limit of human intellect and in turn you will become aware of what you don’t yet know.