Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Do Social Networks Stifle Innovation?

It's traditionally accepted that radical innovation is more likely to occur under certain social scenarios - where young, undeveloped ideas are given time to grow and to be refined. It's thus believed that early sharing and the potential for early criticism of rough ideas may stop perfectly good radical innovation in its tracks - that social networks that support this instant criticism are bad for innovation. The August 1, 2009 issue of one of my favorite magazines, New Scientist, talks about this phenomenon and even goes so far as to recommend re-engineering of massively popular, Internet-based social networks - or even the prevention of potential innovators from using such instant-communication tools.

I'm not convinced that modern social networks need major change in order for groundbreaking inventions to occur. Building barriers to instant interaction might diminish some groupthink by protecting innovators, but it would also diminish the collective intelligence and communication that is enabled through new, digital social networks. I believe that the benefits of open and fast communication still significantly outweigh any pressures to conform. I also think that we've reached a level of Internet-diversity where radical thinking is near-equally supported and criticized by the masses - no matter how far-fetched the idea.
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