Borrowing. I love to borrow concepts from other sectors and put them to use in whatever activity I am up to. Training methods from other sports, design methods from dramatic writing applied to design in construction, or similarities in architecture and the theatre. To paraphrase Andrew Hargadon: Don’t think outside the box. Borrow someone else’s thinking from inside their box. It’ll be radical in your box. (How Breakthroughs Happen: The Surprising Truth about How Companies Innovate, Harvard Business School Press, 2003).
Building on borrowed material is the basic idea of open innovation; using the knowledge and skills carefully developed by someone else in your context, and offering yours to help others with their problems. I believe that open innovation and the free flow of ideas are key to healthy economies in the western hemisphere in the future. Innovation is where we will find our competitiveness as Asian companies are putting their feet in our door. Do not for a minute expect the best of them to be anything other than first-class. Anyone who has English as their first of second language had better take this seriously.
You have to get your ideas from somewhere though, and a free and open Internet is one of my main sources. People bring all kinds of interesting ideas my way just by tweeting a link of an idea. To reciprocate, I try to do the same. In my opinion, we are building the viral infrastructure needed to save jobs. In the light of this, the fact that Europe is only a few weeks away from adopting ACTA is frankly disgusting, as illustrated by for example 3.5.1 here. We are about to let a handful of organizations representing the audiovisual industry govern the way the world communicates. Now read that last sentence again. And they are doing it in secret. Anything we know about ACTA is leaked. Seriously.
Intellectual property rights are important. But they are not more important than free speech or than the cornerstone of our future welfare. Major companies are losing tons of money because their business idea is to provide products that people are not buying. Music is a service again, like before. If you build on providing me with a music product, you are in trouble. Their solution is lobbying for bills like SOPA and PIPA (die, foul fiends) and ACTA, so they can have power over, for example websites that build on the users submitting content. That means us; you and I. Anyone that, say, searches youtube for user-submitted demos of software will be affected. Anyone interested in open innovation will be affected.
There is of course a better way for the dying Big Media to stay in business than restricting the open web. Instead of lobbying for laws to allow IPR holders to sue their clients and shut down their means of communication, why not embrace the technology that’s already here, and find new business, new ways to legally provide creative content. Like construction, they need to restructure their business. Fewer lobbyists and lawyers. More designers, engineers, entrepreneurs and goofballs.
I see many similarities between Big Media right now and the Soviet Union at the time of Perestroika (Wikipedia entry here):
Perestroika (Russian: перестройка [pʲɪrʲɪˈstrojkə] (literally: Restructuring) was a political movement within the Communist Party of the Soviet Union during the 1980s, …. Its literal meaning is "restructuring", referring to the restructuring of the Soviet political and economic system.
Arguably, the power struggle over Perestroika was a major factor in the breakup of the Soviet Union. Michail Gorbachev did try acceleration (uskoreniye); incremental modifications without fundamental change. Perestroika is the name of the more fundamental reformation that substituted it. The process of change brought to light existing tensions within the union and made it impossible to keep it together.
Because of the emergence of web 2.0 and social media, of all the SoundClouds, Twitters and BoingBoings out there, I believe the audiovisual industry is in a very similar situation as the Soviet Union was in before Perestroika. Their situation is untenable. We are seeing them fight back the only way they know how to still be in control. Because with open innovation, corporations are not in control. Their gatekeepers lose their function. People outside rule. Users/clients/customers rule. Like it did for the leadership of the Soviet Union, the situation for Big Media is about to get seriously out of hand.
And with Evil Legislation on our doorstep (the crucial EU parliament vote is in June), I am afraid that the situation for the construction sector is too. The ongoing transition of construction from project-based logic to more of product-based logic requires us to understand and explain the mechanisms of the manufacturing industry when adopted in our line of business. This requires us to collaborate with others, outside of our comfort zone. It requires a free and open flow of information. Even construction needs ACTA stopped and Big Media to find better business.
Consider this. Would you be reading this blog post if you didn’t have access to Twitter?
No images. ACTA just closed down Flickr because of this.
That was almost a joke.