by: Yann Gourvennec
You might believe that I’m getting obsessed with The Halo Effect, Phil Rosenzweig’s latest book (see previous article on the Ideo shopping-cart and the halo effect on his blog). To an extent I am ready to admit to it, but once again, I think this is an important book, one that everyone should read, because some of the things that are said in this book are really fundamental.
The Internet, once dubbed the land of the swift, and the now famous (or infamous depending on the point of view) web 2.0, can lead certain people to think that things are changing so fast, nothing is as it was before. I think this is the case for another halo effect. It is true that the Internet is making things happen at light speed. It is not true that the Internet supersedes normal business rules (we saw that during the bubble period a few years back), and it is not true either that absolutely dazzling new ideas come cropping up all the time.
More than often, older ideas are being recycled, and this is not a criticism. This is one of the paradoxes of innovation (from Latin innovare i.e. to make something new). It would be wrong to think that we can invent new things all the time. Besides, there are many examples where really good ideas can be recycled productively and effectively. As we have seen in previous articles, second life is the result of some sort of recycling of what Vivendi did - only clumsily - in the year 2000 and yesterday I was browsing the latest web 2.0 applications on facebook, and I came across a new website publicising the fact that they were launching a new ‘human’ search engine, a service with which actual people carry out Internet research or your behalf. Well, that’s a new idea isn’t it? Sorry guys, it’s not. Webhelp came up with something similar at the end of the 1990s, although a few years later they turned themselves into a normal contact centre operation company. Similarly, I wrote an article about Internet research way back 1999, which I updated slightly in 2003 (information tracking in the information age revisited, by Yann Gourvennec, 2003). Chances are you think that because Google is ubiquitous (their Mobile version is really astonishing too) and everybody uses it and it’s so easy to use and God knows it is easy to use, you do not need to know how to research things on the Internet. But I think that this article which I wrote 10 years ago is still mostly valid. Okay, some of the links there are obsolete now. But the way that we should organise an Internet search, the way that you select, graft and prune new Internet keywords in your search engine research entry box , should more or less remain the same, if you want to carry out a profitable Internet research campaign. It strikes me that because the Internet has become so pervasive, that everybody uses it and thinks they are so wise (in fact they’re not. Google’s engineers are!), it is really amazing to see how few people know how to actually research information properly. Finally the human search engine idea which was launched by Webhelp some 10 years ago and now is being recycled is a very apt and timely idea.
Indeed, novelty is something very relative, at the end of the day, what really matters is efficiency and it makes perfect sense that ideas, novel ideas which are not mature at the time of invention find a second life (no pun intended) a few years later. It is entirely natural, and entirely desirable.
So that’s the innovation paradox: that way of making new things out of old ideas. Real success, most of the time, does not always arise from absolutely dazzling new ideas, but from those that are really and eltectildy being implemented.