Weekly Discussion: Societal Constraints

Describe one social innovation that has impressed you in the past 10 years. What do you think was the most critical barrier that was overcome?

41 comments:

  1. The way we use the internet has changed drastically in the last 10 years - LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Skype and so many other sites help us stay in touch and even help us deal with crises. I can't say I'm impressed with all of the, but they have changed the way we live our lives. While the internet has been around for what feels like forever the most critical barrier for these life changing innovations has been exponential growth of the internet and the technology that supports it. From dial-up to DSL and wi-fi, internet speeds have been ramping up significantly in the past 10 years and something like Skype or even some crowdsourcing technologies wouldn't be worth a grain of salt if those technical advancements hadn't been made. And now it's to a point where we can even use our phones as mini-computers!

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    1. I would agree with Anne Marie in that overall the way we use the internet has changed drastically over the past decade. To narrow in on one way that we use the internet is via our mobile phones for travel. For example, frequent travelers no longer print their boarding passes but utilize their phones to board the plane. Mobile phones are now used to monitor flights, change flights, create notifications, elite status updates and to book travel. We rely heavily on mobile devices when traveling- not only for convenience but for entertainment as well. The most critical barrier to overcome was trust regarding the accuracy, safety and validity of using such devices for important document storage. Even now a small number of people us mobile boarding passes in comparison to the paper ones. However, the more the technology improves it will become a commonality for travel, and the more people will use it and understand the security measures taken to ensure the validity of the feature.

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  2. Nonprofit organizations whose mission is to prepare students in underserved communities for college/life in general are a social innovation that have impressed me within the past 10 years. Two examples of these are TFA (Teach for America (and KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program). These organizations have existed for longer than 10 years, however I became aware of them within the last 10 years, and many other educational organizations with similar missions continue to emerge (and emerge more frequently) more recently. These organizations are innovative as they challenged the traditional form of education to meet today’s needs. I am impressed in these organization’s commitment and selfless willingness to provide educational support to all students regardless of their academic record, conduct or socioeconomic background and their overall impressive success rates. I would imagine the most critical barrier for these organizations is obtaining the financial backing to launch and sustain these initiatives. They rely obtaining major grants, and in order to be awarded these grants, they have to demonstrate evidence of their organization’s success through objective, sound evidence of student achievement, and they compete in a crowded space with other organizations also seeking funding.

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  3. One major social innovation that has impressed me is the evolution of the gaming industry from single player or multiplayer games being playing in one location to huge networks of players sharing a game across the world. Anyone sitting at home can now compete against players in different countries who speak different languages, as well as with their friends in the same city. Because of this, video games are now considered a social activity. Some of the barriers that video game systems had to overcome included technological difficulties like equivalent speed and accuracy of game play across networks, privacy concerns, and parental concerns. Out of these barriers, from a societal perspective - privacy and parental concerns are most prominent. Parents surely were wary of kids playing video games and communicating with strangers. Additionally, video game makers had to ensure parents and children that their privacy would not be invaded.

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  4. Speed Dating! I think the innovation around this phenomenon is impressive. Of course, I could also argue for online dating, but I believe that speed dating faced (or still faces) higher barriers. Speed dating distilled the whole "getting-to-know-someone-process" into a short one or two minute presentation and was therefore a great innovation for the busy social class of young professionals which I guess was a major target audience. Without the hassle of going out, spending time in awkward conversations, just to figure out the the person will not be a good fit, speed dating offered an efficient alternative. The major barrier was probably - just like online dating - the social stigma that comes along with it: is a speed dater unable to meet someone in the traditional way? Are speed dater sketchy? While the same question could be asked with online dating, I believe speed dating required more effort to overcome this barrier because it cannot hide in the anonymity of the internet. People have to physically show up and make a commitment that they do not necessarily make online.

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  5. A few years ago my doctor coordinated my medical care via an online tool called clickcare.com and while I was initially hesitant to engage in "virtual" healthcare services, I ended up being impressed with it. I will note however that I had met with and seen my doctor a few times prior to using this tool, thus I was willing to be a part of his pilot project and he conducted my follow up appointments via the tool. Clickcare.com essentially allows healthcare professionals to leverage text, photos and video capabilities to deliver their services as most other consultants already do. I think this is a great social innovation as it saves time for both the doctor and patient and allows care/treatment to sometimes be delivered faster than normal because you don't have to wait weeks for an appointment or even hours in a waiting room. I think the biggest constraint facing adoption of this tool was patient fear of trying anything beyond traditional healthcare. While I don't think all appointments can be conducted this way, but I do think follow-up-type appointments are perfect for this innovation. This innovation also has huge implications for providing healthcare and relief to under served areas.

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  6. Along the lines with what Anne Marie said about the way we use the internet, I would have to say cloud computing has changed the way we use data in the workplace. Over the last 10 years I have seen a drastic shift in the number of companies investing in cloud computing. For a while, only small businesses would invest in this service to cut costs and space. Now larger companies are seeing the productivity benefits of cloud computing. Not only are companies saving money and time with these services, the scalability offers new ways in which companies can do things. You no longer need to keep files and files of handwritten data just so someone can go down in the basement to retrieve each time. In addition, employees can work from home and connect into the network via VPN. The most critical barrier for cloud computing has been building organizational trust. Many companies did not want to unleash their data to the open space due to the fear of losing it. Cloud computing systems had to overcome the question of security and pair up with service providers that believe the same thing. One way they have worked around this barrier is by allowing companies to use their service for just one program. This enables companies to try out the service without relinquishing all of their data. As they become more comfortable and trusting with the system, they adopt it for all their programs.

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  7. I'm going to go pretty broad here and suggest that the popularity of crowd sourcing and open source products is for me both an important and surprising social innovation of the last decade. What's surprising about it to me is how it managed to become popular in the face of historical constraints.

    The standards, conventions, and traditions of the world (particularly the US) tends to be highly litigious (thinking about patent law here) and places a premium on ownership of innovation and high levels of corporate controls. Crowd sourcing and open source platforms fly in the face of these conventions. In an attempt to encourage innovation, companies or individuals agree to remove all control, outsourcing a task or problem to an undefined public (crowd sourcing) or agree to allow free redistribution or access to a product or platform (open sourcing).

    Yet, despite the historical constraints, we see these forms that promote innovation become very popular with examples like Mozilla's Firefox, Google's Android, and many examples of crowd sourcing competitions (many coming from our own government).

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  8. Over the past few years, the innovations within the mobile banking space have been quite impressive. Firstly, the being able to deposit a check through an app on your phone is so easy and convenient. Although this capability is not yet utilized by the majority of people, I see it taking off tremendously within the next few years.

    Probably the most impressive innovation of the mobile financial transaction space is the "square" or "intuit gopayment" device that plugs into your mobile phone and allows you to take credit card payments anywhere. I was recently at the farmers market, and one of stands was accepting credit card payments through this device. This allowed them to gain more business because they did not limit customers to paying in cash. I have also seen this device used in food trucks, department stores, etc. Any small business owner now has the ability to make credit card transactions, opening up a tremendous amount of opportunities.

    Some of the major constraints to these innovations are security (and trustworthiness), and technological capabilities. It has been difficult to demonstrate the infallibility and security of these devices, yet more people are beginning to see that they are quite reliable. Moreover, they technology has become extremely user friendly and accessible.

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  9. In the past 10 years, I have been most impressed with innovations in social enterprises--particularly microfinance. Group lending models have continued to develop and gain great success in helping aspiring entrepreneurs achieve their goals and pay back their loans an incredibly high percentage of the time. Websites such as the now defuncct wokai.org allow all people to participate in group lending by contributing small amounts to entrepreneurs who pitch their idea on the website. It is just incredible how big of an impact microfinance can make in communities and how well it works--both in improving the community and in having such high repayment rates on loans (usually 98% or higher). I think there is still much to be learned in this field and the innovations can only continue to improve it.

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    1. This is a good one... and definitely still growing. I think the key is how we we can most simplify microfinance so it benefits the most people.

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  10. In quick review of the previous comments, I'm surprised by the number of social innovations that I've forgotten over the past ten years! An innovation is only "innovative" for a short period of time today, and then it becomes the standard, expected.

    The most impressive social innovation over the last decade is Twitter, in my opinion. Unlike other hugely popular social media outlets, past and present (Xanga, MySpace, Facebook), Twitter's value was based on simplicity. Its competitors aimed to be THE center of all e-social interaction, whereas Twitter aimed to connect regular Joes to celebrities, brands, etc. in an extremely fast way.

    Instead of full news stories using hours to develop a television broadcast or days to write an editorial, Twitter has required any respectable news outlet to break news as fast as possible. No, this isn't always a good thing, but the standard for e-interaction has been greatly impacted by Twitter as a social innovation.

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  11. One social innovation that has impressed me in the last decade is the Blackberry Messenger (BBM). While Blackberry maker, Research in Motion, has been crucified lately for lack of innovation, I must admit that the far reaching impact of their BBM technology has impressed me. It is perhaps the singular reason why I still use a Blackberry. For one thing, the BBM is extremely convenient, and relatively cheap.

    In many emerging nations across the world, the BBM feature is the single most important reason as to why the Blackberry is still so popular. The BBM technology allows you to communicate with your friends all over the world (regardless of their network carrier) in a very personal way real time. It allows you to see immediately your friends have a status update, as well as their colorful profile pictures. Every Blackberry device in the world has a unique PIN code so the idea of exchanging PINs has become very popular in many countries today. I use the BBM at least 100 times everyday. In comparison, these days, I visit Facebook once in a month.

    I recognize that there are new "similar" softwares like WhatsApp, but I still have not found a true substitute for the BBM feature on Blackberries.

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  12. I think that one of the most interesting social innovations over the last 10 years has been the US consumer’s desire to consider “green” products. Twenty years ago, people were not concerned about the environmental impact of products, but if there was any concern about the “greenness” of a product, it was concerned with recycling. Now, every aspect of the product contributes to some form a “green” score/rating. Using Malcolm Gladwell’s “The Tipping Point” model for how this overcame various barriers, the “green” movement meets all of the requirements. The stickiness factor: going “green” is easy to remember and easy to say and promote among businesses and people. The power of context: the move for climate change as well as a more educated approach for renewable resources and the rising cost of energy have made “green” approaches cost effective. The law of the few: salesmen, mavens, and connectors all bought into the “green” movement and took it from a “hippie” movement and something that one can do in the privacy of their own home (recycling/composting) to a more mainstream approach that makes it socially acceptable to “go green”.

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    1. I'm going to build off of Brian's comments here: I am interested in the fact that the average company's marketing pitch is now "do good", which is in stark contrast to a generation ago (the Milton Friedman era), but even 10 years ago I recall having a conversation with a friend about "evil corporations." Without regard to the actual behaviors of companies today, one can clearly say that the companies have responded in their marketing efforts to the social interests of consumers (primarily around "green", but also other social concerns: harm to children, animal testing, etc). But frankly, the behaviors seem to have radically improved as well, from beer to (ahem) oil...

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  13. One social innovation that has impressed me in the last years is the use of transit alert app mobile. With this app, every user can rate the grade of vehicular traffic and other users can see if it is convenient or not to drive in specific streets. Cities as Mexico City have many traffic problems, hence the use of this technology permit that people have more time for doing important things (to be on time in the job, go back to home early and do exercise or spend the time with the family or friends) instead of spending the time in the traffic.

    Other innovation is the use of blogs/internet/apps in which people can give comments or suggestion about travels. The last years has really useful for me to have this technology available because I can read what are the most important places for visit in specific cities, what are the best restaurants in price-quality, what routes are more convenient, what way/streets I can drive for arriving faster to an precise spot. This is really helpful because travelers can avoid hiring travel companies, to save money and time, and to have a more pleasant trip.

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  14. Building off of some of the Internet comments, I think the biggest current social innovation is education. Especially after the recent election, education issues are more relevant than ever. With both political sides divided, the movement towards online and free content is going to revolutionize education delivery on a global scale. Although this may be seen as a subset of crowd sourcing, I think that the delivery of the education piece is going to significantly impact how future generations learn and develop. Many universities have already started to offer some core classes online, opening the door for information sharing across campuses. Common standards and assessments across K-12 schools will allow technology and innovations to serve a larger market at a much quicker pace. Since this innovation is still in progress, I think the most critical barrier that will need to be overcome is the migration towards shared practices and standards.

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    1. This entire thread makes me consider innovation vs. disruption, and in education this is particularly applicable, since education has been changing since the dawn of time. Education issues _are_ more relevant than ever; classroom resources are better; technology for teaching and information sharing develops at light speed. Education is available to more people around the world than ever.

      The "disruptive innovation" is that the value of the education model, at least in the US, is being called into question, especially in higher ed. Why does a college education cost so much? Why is regional accreditation necessary to assure the value of an education program? What does a degree (at any level) mean? Why isn't "competency-based" education valued the way a traditional degree is? More and more questions of this kind are being raised. Where will the answers take us?

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  15. Communication through photos/images has evolved greatly in the last 10 years. The human need for relationships and a sense of connectedness has always existed, but the way we fulfill that need has changed thanks in part to the internet and social media. Google images has put pictures of all kinds at our finger tips. We can use these images to pin or post, but we also put them in presentations, collages, artwork, etc. What used to involve search through photo archives, flipping through albums or passing around books and magazines, now can be accomplished with a quick online search. Facebook, Instagram and other social media has also elevated the ability for humans to relate to one another through photo sharing. No longer does someone need to write a letter or email to tell their friends of their most recent adventures. With a few clicks, a photo is posted and a story told.

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  16. I have to go with Fantasy Sports Leagues. You may not immediately think this is a social innovation, but for many of us it has become a way to compete with each other or keep up with old friends through an entertaining medium. It has generated a lot of extra interest in sports, particularly in the NFL. People watch games they may have ignored so that they can see the players on their teams. It generates revenue for the providers and entertainment for the fans. I really think it's changed the way people interact with sports.

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    1. Really like this idea...10 years ago people who competed in fantasy sports were thought of as nerds and outcasts...now professional athletes get involved with fantasy teams of their own. Fantasy sports certainly had social constraints it had to overcome

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  17. Several folks have touched on this, so I'll second that social media has revolutionized our relationships with friends, acquaintances, total strangers, and businesses. Platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter have provided us with a forum in which we're now comfortable sharing an unprecedented level of personal information in the name of self-expression and experience sharing. In my mind, our paradigm shift on privacy has been one of the most interesting societal developments of the past decade.

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  18. Microlending to the poor around the world has been a major social innovation in recent times. Instead of typical lending institutions like banks controlling funds and how they get allocated, organizations like Kiva.org have been set up to empower people like you and I to lend to others around the world based on which borrower(s) we choose to support.

    Every day, Kiva connects thousands of people to borrowers and partner institutions around the world, working together to create opportunity and alleviate poverty. From my perspective, the most critical barrier that was overcome to make organizations like Kiva possible involved legitimacy. Since we would be lending our personal money, we would certainly be cautious about understanding where it would be going and whether it would be used as intended. To help lessen such concerns, Kiva is very transparent about how borrowers are selected and vetted, where your money is, and what the status of your repayment is.

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  19. I would credit Starbucks with social innovation for popularizing the coffee shop concept in the United States. Prior to starbucks, coffee was brewed mostly at home or purchased on-the-go. Building on how coffee shops in other countries (Italy, for example) become community meeting places, Starbucks attempted to change the way the US purchased and consumed coffee. The greatest constraint that the company had to overcome was changing the behavior of US coffee drinkers as well as convincing customers that coffee could serve more that just a utilitarian (i.e. caffeine) need.

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    1. Agreed. Starbucks put the "experience" in "coffee".

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  20. I really think the drastic improvements in mobile mapping technology (Google Maps especially) has been one of the most impressive social innovations. Applications like Google Maps and, to a much lesser extent, Apple's Maps, have drastically enhanced individuals' access to directions, information about local venues, restaurants etc, and public transportation. Furthermore, with applications like Waze, Poynt, AroundMe and Yelp, which build off existing mapping applications, consumers have access to even more informative information about what's around them. Ultimately, I think these great advancements have benefitted all parties involved - consumers can get around more efficiently, good restaurants receive favorable reviews and are pushed to customers, travelers can get around novel cities more easily, etc. And, perhaps the most impressive piece is that virtually all the information is consumed from the smartphone, which is essentially always on hand.

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  21. I think Klout is a social innovation that says a great deal about where we are as a society. It might be the case that in five or ten years, we measure leaders only by how many followers they have on Twitter or how many likes their posts receive on Facebook. This is not to say I am hoping for society to move closer and closer toward Klout being the ultimate measure of influence and legacy. The most critical barrier that was overcome to get to this point was the advent of mobile technology and telecommunications networks. Social media was really propelled to new heights by 3G networks and this trend continues as developing nations obtain access to cheap mobile devices.

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    1. Some valid points there... popularity does not necessarily equal a good leader

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  22. In the last 10 years, the newspapers' becoming online impresses me in the way that the paper format which has lasted for centuries has been replaced and disappearing. This indicates that innovation can change many aspects of our life. This change is made possible by the development of Internet. More-users and higher-speed connection make online news a richer and cheaper alternative than the traditional newspapers.

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  23. While not invented in the last 10 years, I would have to go with mobile phone technology and advancements over the last 10 years that have completely changed the way people communicate (frequency, cost, mode) and the fact that we now have small computers in our pockets that are controlled either with a fingertip touch or even the tone of your voice. 10 years ago, mobile phones were simply a portable means of communication and maybe you could play a game or two (who didn't love SNAKE?), but today the functionality of our phones is crucial to our everyday lives (how many people feel like they can't breathe if they happen to forget or lose their phone?). From text messages to email communications, calendars, video phone calls with Skype, reading books, listening/buying music, shopping, checking in for flights, and many of the things mentioned above can all be done on the mobile phone.

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  24. One societal innovation that has impressed me is YouTube. In addition to being known for viral videos, YouTube has become a means of communication for teaching, sharing news, and even managing political debates. I’d say the most critical barrier was getting people to adopt the new way of sharing content. Once the network of users became large enough, the YouTube business model became self-reinforcing and content has continued to grow over time.

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  25. I think the social innovation that has impressed me in the past 10 is mobile phone. Might be only in my country or in the society that I live in, mobile phone is not a mandatory part of our life like today. I remember I did not have mobile phone when I went to school, even in high-school but now mobile phone is a normal thing that most kid has. I think the most critical barrier is cost of having a mobile phone including monthly service fee and in the past parents might also did not think that children should have mobile phone. Now people expect that they can contact their family or friend immediately through mobile phone.

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  26. Smartphones have made life a whole lot easier in recent years. It doubles up as a camera, helps us check email, keeps us updated on current events and helps us find directions when we are lost. It almost has the functionality of a computer and fits conveniently in our pockets. So this is a societal innovation that has impressed me.

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  27. The social innovation that has impressed me the most over the last few years is internet technology. Though the technology is older than this, at least in my country it has made substantial gains over the last ten years. As far as I can remember, we had never heard of the word "internet" up until the late nineteen nineties, and now it is difficult to recall how life was without it. The barriers faced by this innovation included cultural barriers (as it was a completely new way of doing things), as well as technological barriers; it took some time before internet speeds and hardware capabilities reached the level they are now, which has enabled the widespread usage of the internet in ever increasing spheres.

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  28. The smart phone is the innvoation that continues to impress me. It seems to change every few months, and yet consumers are drawn to them. There is a slightly addictive aspect to them for the consumer. To think of not having access to your smart phone for a week or even a day is hard to process.

    The critical barrier it had to overcome was its consumer base. The smart phone industry had to train its consumers. Prior to the modern day smart phone, a mobile phone was strictly for telephone use. Smart phones had to "prove their cases" for importance. Once that barrier was overcome, the result has been, as mentioned above, an addictive consumer.

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  29. I agree with Crystal - the smartphone has been an incredible innovation, particularly in terms of our access to information. While computers and the Internet pioneered the idea of constant access to information, with the advent of smartphones and the ubiquity of wireless networks throughout most of the world, we have become walking computers in terms of our ability to access and compute any kind of information at any time. In addition to tapping into a consumer base, the smart phone industry's critical barrier was to actually develop the phone technology and network infrastructure to support the systems that allow smart phones to be so advanced. This technological constraint likely took a long time to overcome, as well as a huge investment in R & D, but given the increasing level of competition in the telecommunications industry, a lack of innovation will immediately lead to a swift death for a telecomm company.

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  31. one innovation that has impressed me, is the innovation of one self...Yes, us individuals. With the technological era, we have ëvolved"and taken a learning to getting used to new software upgrades from our mobile phones to pc's/tablets. Our minds are being adaptive, every step of the way.From key boards to touch screens!.From the past 10years, i have evolved from a black & white basic phone to an operating system phone with so many applocations in the world to download and make them suit my day-to-day life..

    Even our elderly members of our societies are getting on with all the advancements, against all odds....on the plus side again, it is more exercise for our brains, as doctors recommend it, as long as we are not obsessed with the techno bug. :-)

    I am very impressed by the majority of us, our minds and thinking are evolving with technology

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  33. It's hard to think of an innovation in the last ten years that is not connected to computers or mobile technology of some sort. Smart phones, computers, coursera is a case in point. Educating people world wide in a virtual classroom, and enabling us to communicate with each other via these group blogs. Wow! That must have been a mind blowing concept when it was first floated! What were the barriers to this I wonder? Firstly I imagine, getting the universities on board. Selling the concept of providing free courses to a government sector that is often struggling for funding (at least in Australia) would have been difficult, when the current emphasis in my country is to devote resources to enticing more fee paying students into the tertiary industry. Getting quality lecturers, building and maintaing reliable websites to connect us all, organising seed and ongoing sponsorship money to fund the idea, promoting Coursera to the world so that people hear about it and use it.

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