Responsibility of the Imagination in Open Innovation

Responsibility of the Imagination in Open Innovation

By Catherine Lilly

Front End Innovation is an annual conference attended by 550 of the most forward-thinking minds in the world as well as 20 vendors that sell services specializing in innovation. The nearly 600 attendees all share a passion for advancing the world at an accelerated rate. There is an almost tangible energy inspired by the keynote speakers, and host Soon Yu of VF Corporation. The inspiration is carried through the 6 collaborative learning tracks to enable these innovators to succeed. Executives from Fortune 500 companies to startups, proud of what they’ve accomplished and driven to do even more, will pass on their experiences to everyone eager to listen – and indeed we all are.

Science Fiction: From Star Trek To Motorola

I had the opportunity to hear Ari Popper of SciFutures speak about his passion – Science Fiction. I learned that the population generally overestimates advances in the near term – which leads to a sense of disappointment – but dramatically underestimates advances in the long term. In order to have a chance of getting predictions right long term, you have to sound crazy. So, who gets it right? Science Fiction authors do, that’s who!

Ari explained that Science Fiction authors have been both the most profound examples of human imagination, and the inspiration for some of the most transformative technologies in our world today. For example, the communicator of Star Trek was the first imagination of the portable cell phone. And it inspired its own creation when Martin Cooper, an engineer for Motorola, watched the TV show. Amazingly, he and his team prototyped the first device in just 90 days.

The craziest ideas we may be reading about today could be the next major development in our world. By creating a vision of alternate futures or reading other’s imaginations, our innovators can be inspired to create distinctive versions of the world they want to see. The authors that we read in our free time may be having a greater influence than we realize, and the creators of the day hold a greater responsibility than they may feel.

Seeding My First Crazy Idea: A Seed Purchases Furniture

So, here’s my prediction for the future, inspired by Joan Slonczewski’s Brain Plague.

Imagine a “seed” than can be programmed with a growth plan. This seed grows into a home by creating a cellular matrix in a unique architecture. The new home has pillars or archways, windows, and a roof. It is at risk of getting an infection but also has the ability to repair itself from damage – regrow broken windows or doors. Now, imagine it also develops a user interface and actually talks to those inside. The seed is programed to be interactive, have preferences and be connected to the internet (or whatever may be next) independently. It can purchase furniture and decorate for its tenants. It upgrades its own security if it feels threatened. The home has its own income – tenants – that it can manage according to preferences. It even chooses its tenants, and can evict them by simply refusing to let them in if they are delinquent. Homes that have fallen into disrepair simply need an update to their programming.

Sounds crazy? Maybe. Maybe it’s crazy enough to be accurate!

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