Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Innovation and Amplification

The third session at the 2011 JISC conference in Liverpool was a workshop on innovation - specifically how innovation can help Universities to be agile and efficient. After a few opening remarks from the panelists we had some round table discussions on the theme of innovation. So, some points from our discussion:
  • How do you engender innovation at the enterprise level.  Individual innovation is great, but there needs to be widescale take up if there's going to be major benefits.
  • In these cash strapped times, how do we protect innovation, and find the time and space to allow people to do it. In highly innovative companies like Google employees are given a percentage of their time as innovation time - sometimes as high as 20%. Can we afford to do that?
  • Time is also an issue for embracing and using innovation - eg lecturers and innovative teaching methods. There needs to be time to try things out, and acceptance of failure. Things have to be easier - user interfaces as good as in the consumer space. 
  • Universities are very risk averse (and sometimes arrogant  - the not invented/written here syndrome). How do we foster a culture of innovation and managed risk taking, accepting that not all innovation is good, and not all will succeed.
     
  • One persons innovation is someone else's overhead  - good  soundbite there from JohnT ;-)
  • Innovation is risky, but in the current climate the biggest risk will be not innovating.
Interesting debate, but more questions than answers!

The final session was on Amplified Events. Not how to get the sound to work properly, but using various technologies to provide a richer experience for remote participants at events, as well as those present in person. Brian Kelly and Marieke Guy gave the session, with a remote contribution from Paul Shabajee.

Brian has blogged about the session in advance,  and all of the slides are on the blog. I suspect that a recording of the talk will also be available soon, and I'll link to it when it is. I won't therefore repeat everything that was said, but just make a few comments, especially around the discussion.

I've taken part in amplified events, and spoken at them. IWMW last year in Sheffield was one such event. There's extensive use of video streaming, photographs, slidesharing, twitter, twitterwalls, social networks, RSS feeds,  Facebook (although this is decreasing). The link has many of the resources still available. This workshop also made use of iTitle, which combines the video stream and the twitter stream, so you can track the tweets alongside the video. As a speaker I found this really helpful - to see what people had been saying while I was speaking. .

The practice of tweeting during talks led to a discussion on the value of this. Do people just repeat key phrases and sentences from the speaker, and if so is that any use?  Probably not to the people in the room, but in can be immensely useful to people who aren't there. Someone also commented that tweets sometimes misrepresented the speaker - said things they didn't say, or interpreted things wrongly. Did that mean they were only half listening because they were tweeting?  I would say in general no. As someone who tweets a lot during talks, I find I concentrate much more - my mind doesn't wander as much because I'm having to listen to be able to type the tweet. I also believe that speakers sometimes misremember what they've said. I've read tweets and thought "I didn't say that", and then gone back and checked the video, and I did!  Also, if as a speaker you are misrepresented, twitter gives you the chance to correct, explain again, and engage with the listener.

Another discussion point was technology. The speakers quite rightly said that is was about the audience, not the technology. But, and this is a big but, the technology is vital. If you get it wrong, it is very frustrating, and in fact can turn people off the whole idea of participating digitally. The JISC conference was a good case of this. Amplification of the event was encouraged, the hashtag had been widely publicised, there was a remote audience, but - the wireless network in the venue wasn't good enough. During the main keynote it stopped working entirely - there was some 3G coverage, but not much, so tweeting was out. I could only blog by posting later when I got a connection. Slightly ironic that we were in the BT conference centre....

Very good session to end on, and I'm a great believer in amplified events - the concept can be extended to any event, including meetings - doesn't just have to be conferences. With the need to reduce our carbon footprint and travel less I think it it will become more the norm.

EDIT  links to this session resources including videos and slides is here

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