Can you accurately estimate the number of mistakes in your own writing if you’re not good at spelling? After all, you don’t see the mistakes, because if you did, you wouldn’t be bad at spelling. So, how do you gain insight into things you don’t know? And how do you approach innovation and problem-solving when there are so many things “unknown?”
Creating new connections
The more you know, the better you are able to recognize what you don’t know. In simple terms, that could be called the basis of science. Traditionally, scientists begin an investigation by formulating a motivation, drawing up a research question, collecting data, drawing conclusions and providing an answer to the research question. Based on the outcomes, follow-up research can then be launched, and that’s how the world becomes increasingly smarter. This research method, however, is limited by the creative capacity of the scientists. And that’s not always adequate in the modern, digital world.
In fact, today’s world has changed so much that research can also be conducted in another 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 currently have the opportunity to start their research by collecting and analyzing huge volumes of data (that were previously not available), discovering whether there are correlations or causal connections, and drawing conclusions from this to consider what problems and challenges they can resolve with it. In this way, researchers are more likely to encounter issues whose existence they were not yet aware of, and these new insights will yield (unforeseen) innovations.
Analyzing and optimizing in practice
An example would be how Google attempts to analyze behavioral patterns with all its solutions. The data from Google Calendar, Google Maps, websites visited and keywords, among other things, is used to create a profile of an individual or group of people. The profiles yield new insights, and the service provision is modified accordingly. In an office setting, a clear example would be the ability to discover previously unknown behavioral patterns based on the data produced by sensors. Behavioral patterns, movements, and preferences are revealed, so that office designs and experiences can be optimized to best fit how people actually use the office.
In short, the exploration of domains, habits and/or behaviors that we didn’t yet know existed, can yield exciting and valuable insights. These opportunities offer organizations an innovative and competitive lead in the market. New technology makes it possible to create insights that were once outside the human intellectual capacity or grasp. In this way, it’s important to not only think in terms of problems and their solutions, but to use technology to allow you to break through those barriers and truly innovate. You just might become aware of something you don’t yet know.