This is an awesome topic that I love to share with people whenever I can.
Innovation is something that can be thought of in several different ways, however there are good ways, and then there are better ones.
Innovation can be basically anything that solves a problem that has not been previously solved, or it can be something that solves a problem that was previously solved, while solving other problems at the same time(these are the better ones).
There are really two perspectives into innovating. One is purely the scientific aspect of it. The physics, the research, the testing, the technology. Then there is the practical, social side of innovating, which does not always agree with the scientific side.
The process of innovation should contain both views, almost at the same time. It is not enough to innovate and solve one problem technically, while socially creating another problem.
A quick example of this may very well be gas powered vehicles. They’ve solved a huge problem in enabling faster travel, but they’ve also caused a sort of social dilemma, because people are almost forced to use them in some fashion, and they are now proven to have negative impacts on air quality and perhaps weather.
Innovation should be approached from the view of the true designer: the architect, who builds not only for aesthetics, but for purpose, and function. The architect builds for the social function, while utilizing the best scientific practices and innovations available. But the purpose is always foremost, for the people.
People are weird. They do not really seem to fit any set pattern as a whole. There is an infinite variation, and this must be accounted for in design.
Innovations when designed for people, tend to solve the most problems, and leave the least behind. The best innovations, the truly beautiful ones, seem to leave no problems behind, and just fit, like a puzzle piece finally being snapped into place.
When designing Beat-Play’s music search solution, I ended up solving several social problems: How do I find new music? How do I find good music? How do I not waste time searching for music?
The way I solved these problems was to think about it from the approach of the social first. The first step is always to survey what already exists. I studied the different methods of how music was found and shared now.
I found some methods that were better than others, and I looked at the best ones, and searched out the problems there. It turned out that I found some.
The best solutions available at this point for finding music are Pandora or Last.fm, where the music is suggested and played for you, allowing you time to focus on other things. This is a great innovation, but I saw flaws.
It went right back to thinking socially. Pandora finds songs based on other songs, using basically scientific data and variables to link songs together into an automated playlist.
This I knew, was the wrong way to think about it. People are not defined by any given variable. They are defined by many variables that vary all the time. Music is no different. It is a mere extension of people. There needed to be a social way for people to find music.
So my idea came to me almost rather simply. It was to use social networks, and people to create a user’s playlist, instead of a computer.
On Beat-Play you can follow friends or favorite bands, who you share a taste in music with, and who are infinitely as variable as you are; and the music those people like enough to save, will automatically get played in your radio.
This enables you to find the best new music literally as simply as a mouse click, without searching through mounds of bad music, wasting hours before finding a good song. And it keeps you updated.
Also this method does not limit a person’s playlist to one genre of music, or a certain group of artists, like Pandora does, unless the user wants these limits on.
This solution is so beautiful because it solves several other problems at the same time. When you hear music on your radio coming from your friend’s playlists, if you like it, you save it into one of your playlists, and it then gets sent to anybody following you.
For the best artists, this is an amazing way for fans to spread the music for them. It’s actually a form of free promotion and distribution in addition to being a much better way for fans to find the music. It can even be a great way for artists to gain advertising revenue by tracking plays, which could then result in the best music being free.
The more the people love and share the music for free, the more the artists will get paid, making everyone happy, and rendering piracy irrelevant!
That is what I mean by snapping in a puzzle piece. This solution fits on all sides, perfectly with it’s surroundings. This solution came by simply analyzing the environment that the innovation must exist in, which is always an incredibly social one.
If we inject this social perspective into our innovations, we can adapt what we know about the scientific, physical stuff, to coincide with the social factors, to form the ultimate solutions.
Design thinking is an extremely powerful thing, especially when approached in the right way. The formula is simple: Search out the problems, and then fix them, integrating what you know both about the social and scientific or technological environments currently present.
If you do that, you will do great things. Innovation is everyone’s responsibility. There are too many problems for us not to all try and solve them. Good luck. Think social!
Written by: Dante Cullari Founder & President Beat-Play, LLC