Since we are going to be talking about innovation clusters in class this coming week, I thought people might find this interactive cluster map interesting. It shows innovation clusters all around the world and then categorizes them based on momentum/growth and diversity. You can also browse based on region alone. Enjoy!

Given our recent discussion on Wikipedia, I thought this article from today's Wall Street Journal might be interesting. It seems even Wikipedia is not immune to bureaucracy and convoluted rules systems. is the fifth-most-popular Web site in the world, with roughly 325 million monthly visitors. But unprecedented numbers of the millions of online volunteers who write, edit and police it are quitting.

That could have significant implications for the brand of democratization that Wikipedia helped to unleash over the Internet -- the empowerment of the amateur.

Wikipedia is extremely popular with the public, but not so much with the volunteers who run the site. They're quitting, raising questions about the future of Wikipedia, says Senior Technology Editor Julia Angwin.

Volunteers have been departing the project that bills itself as "the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit" faster than new ones have been joining, and the net losses have accelerated over the past year. In the first three months of 2009, the English-language Wikipedia suffered a net loss of more than 49,000 editors, compared to a net loss of 4,900 during the same period a year earlier, according to Spanish researcher Felipe Ortega, who analyzed Wikipedia's data on the editing histories of its more than three million active contributors in 10 languages.

Eight years after Wikipedia began with a goal to provide everyone in the world free access to "the sum of all human knowledge," the declines in participation have raised questions about the encyclopedia's ability to continue expanding its breadth and improving its accuracy. Errors and deliberate insertions of false information by vandals have undermined its reliability.

Executives at the Wikimedia Foundation, which finances and oversees the nonprofit venture, acknowledge the declines, but believe they can continue to build a useful encyclopedia with a smaller pool of contributors. "We need sufficient people to do the work that needs to be done," says Sue Gardner, executive director of the foundation. "But the purpose of the project is not participation."

Indeed, Wikipedia remains enormously popular among users, with the number of Web visitors growing 20% in the 12 months ending in September, according to comScore Media Metrix.

Wikipedia contributors have been debating widely what is behind the declines in volunteers. One factor is that many topics already have been written about. Another is the plethora of rules Wikipedia has adopted to bring order to its unruly universe -- particularly to reduce infighting among contributors about write-ups of controversial subjects and polarizing figures.

"Wikipedia is becoming a more hostile environment," contends Mr. Ortega, a project manager at Libresoft, a research group at the Universidad Rey Juan Carlos in Madrid. "Many people are getting burnt out when they have to debate about the contents of certain articles again and again."

Wikipedia's struggles raise questions about the evolution of "crowdsourcing," one of the Internet era's most cherished principles. Crowdsourcing posits that there is wisdom in aggregating independent contributions from multitudes of Web users. It has been promoted as a new and better way for large numbers of individuals to collaborate on tasks, without the rules and hierarchies of traditional organizations.

But as it matures, Wikipedia, one of the world's largest crowdsourcing initiatives, is becoming less freewheeling and more like the organizations it set out to replace. Today, its rules are spelled out across hundreds of Web pages. Increasingly, newcomers who try to edit are informed that they have unwittingly broken a rule -- and find their edits deleted, according to a study by researchers at Xerox Corp.

“ I have an entry on Wiki on some stuff that happened to occur in the 1500s. Some of the commentary/corrections that were done were most helpful in filling out the article, but the amount of stuff that one had to go through hardly justifies the effort when it is volunteer time that I am contributing out of my life. ”

"People generally have this idea that the wisdom of crowds is a pixie dust that you sprinkle on a system and magical things happen," says Aniket Kittur, an assistant professor of human-computer interaction at Carnegie Mellon University who has studied Wikipedia and other large online community projects. "Yet the more people you throw at a problem, the more difficulty you are going to have with coordinating those people. It's too many cooks in the kitchen."

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, who is chairman emeritus of the foundation, acknowledges participation has been declining. But he says it still isn't clear to him what the "right" number of volunteer "Wikipedians" should be. "If people think Wikipedia is done," he says, meaning that with three million articles it is hard to find new things to write about, "that's substantial. But if the community has become more hostile to newbies, that's a correctable problem."

Mr. Wales says his top priority is to improve the accuracy of Wikipedia's articles. He's pushing a new feature that would require top editors to approve all edits before they are displayed on the site. The idea is to prevent the kind of vandalism that in January declared Sen. Edward Kennedy's death months before his actual passing.

Jimmy Wales, founder of the online encyclopedia, which is written and edited by voluteers.

Mr. Wales, a onetime options trader in Chicago, founded Wikipedia in 2001 amid frustration that his effort to create an online encyclopedia was hampered by the slow pace of copy-editing and getting feedback from experts. He saw Wikipedia as a side project -- a radical experiment with software that allows multiple people to edit the same Web page. The term "wiki" comes from the Hawaiian word for fast.

The collaborative software fostered a unique form of online governance. One of Wikipedia's principles is that decisions should be made by consensus-building. One of the few unbreakable rules is that articles must be written from a neutral point of view. Another is that anyone should be able to edit most articles. One policy serves as a coda: "Ignore all rules."

The Wikimedia Foundation employs a staff of 34, mostly in San Francisco, to run the site's computers, guide its planning and serve as its public face. In its fiscal year ended in June, it reported expenses of $5.6 million. It funds its operations mostly through donations. Earlier this month, it launched a campaign to raise $7.5 million from users.

Wikipedia's popularity has strained its consensus-building culture to the breaking point. Wikipedia is now a constant target for vandals who spray virtual graffiti throughout the site -- everything from political views presented as facts to jokes about their friends -- and spammers who try to insert marketing messages into articles.

In 2005, journalist John Seigenthaler Sr. wrote about his own Wikipedia write-up, which unjustly accused him of murder. The resulting bad press was a wake-up call. Wikipedians began getting more aggressive about patrolling for vandals and blocking suspicious edits, according to Andrew Lih, a professor at the University of Southern California and a regular Wikipedia contributor.

That helped transform the site into a more hierarchical society where volunteers had to negotiate a thicket of new rules. Wikipedia rolled out new antivandalism features, including "semiprotection," which prevents newcomers from editing certain controversial articles.

"It was easier when I joined in 2004," says Kat Walsh, a longtime contributor who serves on Wikimedia's board of trustees. "Everything was a little less complicated.... It's harder and harder for new people to adjust."

In 2008, Wikipedia's editors deleted one in four contributions from infrequent contributors, up sharply from one in 10 in 2005, according to data compiled by social-computing researcher Ed Chi of Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center.

Nina Paley, a New York cartoonist who calls herself an "information radical," had no luck when she tried to post her syndicated comic strips from the '90s. She does not copyright their artwork but instead makes money on ancillary products and services, making her perfect for Wikipedia's free-content culture.

It took her a few days to decipher Wikipedia's software."I figured out how to do it with this really weird, ugly code," she says. "I went to bed feeling so proud of myself, and I woke up and found it had been deleted because it was 'out of scope.'"

A Wikipedia editor had decided that Ms. Paley's comics didn't meet the criteria for educational art. Another editor weighed in with questions about whether she had copyright permission for the photo of herself that she uploaded. She did.

Ultimately, it was decided that Ms. Paley's comics were suitable for the site. Samuel Klein, a veteran Wikipedian who serves on the board of trustees, intervened and restored her contributions. Mr. Klein says experiences like Ms. Paley's happen too often. Mr. Klein says that the Wikipedia community needs to rein in so-called deletionists -- editors who shoot first and ask questions later.

The Wikimedia Foundation says it is seeking to increase participation, but that growing the overall number of participants isn't its main focus.

"The early days were a gold rush," says Ms. Gardner, the foundation's executive director. "They attracted lots and lots of people, because a new person could write about anything." The encyclopedia isn't finished, she says, but the "easy work" of contributing is done.

To attract new recruits to help with the remaining work, Ms. Gardner has hired an outreach team, held seminars to train editors in overlooked categories, and launched task forces to seek ways to increase participation in markets such as India. The foundation also invested $890,000 in a new design for the site, slated to go live in the next few months, that aims to make editing easier for contributors who aren't computer-savvy.

She says increasing contributor diversity is her top goal. A survey the foundation conducted last year determined that the average age of an editor is 26.8 years, and that 87% of them are men.

Much of the task of making Wikipedia more welcoming to newcomers falls to Frank Schulenburg, the foundation's head of public outreach. An academic, he began contributing to articles about French philosophers on the German Wikipedia in 2005.

"The community has created its own language, and that is certainly a barrier to new participants," he says.

One of Mr. Schulenburg's first projects, called the "bookshelf," is an effort to gather the basic rules for contributing to Wikipedia in one place for newcomers. He hopes the new multimedia bookshelf will be the Wikipedia community's equivalent of a high-school civics textbook.

In Germany, to recruit more academics, Mr. Schulenburg had devised an educational program called Wikipedia Academy. In July, he conducted the first such program in the U.S., for scientists and administrators at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md. His goal was to entice the scientists to contribute.

Wikipedia already attracts lots of academics, but science isn't its strength. By its own internal grading standards, the article on Louis Pasteur, one of the founders of microbiology, for example, is lower in quality than its article on James T. Kirk, the fictional "Star Trek" captain.

For the July event, Mr. Schulenburg got about 100 scientists and NIH staffers to spend the day listening to arguments about why they should bother contributing to Wikipedia, despite the fact that it doesn't pay, won't help them get a grant or even win them applause from their peers.

His audience was skeptical about the lack of credentials among Wikipedia editors. "One of my concerns is not knowing who the editor is," said Lakshmi Grama, a communications official from the National Cancer Institute.

Several participants started contributing to Wikipedia right after the event. The NIH says it is considering whether to adopt formal policies to encourage its staff to contribute while at work.

Each year, Wikipedians from around the world gather at a conference they call Wikimania. At this year's meeting in Buenos Aires in August, participants at one session debated the implications of the demographic shifts.

"The number one headline I have been seeing for five years is that Wikipedia is dying," said Mathias Schindler, a board member of Wikimedia Germany. He argued that Wikipedia needed to focus less on the total number of articles and more on "smarter metrics" such as article quality.

He said he disagreed with dire views about the project's future. "I don't expect to see Wikipedia follow the rule of any curve or any projection."

Read this interesting article by Ajit Kambil, G. Bruce Friesen and Arul Sundaram on how customer co-creation can only be successful if properly managed:

How Customer Co-Creation is the Future of Business

By Graham Hill, Customers & More

Take a look at the Wikipedia definition of customer co-creation and it will tell you that:

"Co-creation is the practice of product or service development that is collaboratively executed by developers and stakeholders together".

The Wikipedia definition, whilst not wrong, isn't right either. Let's just call it a fluffy 'co-creation lite' rather than the real McCoy. Strictly speaking, co-creation as designing products or services together with customers hardly counts as co-creation at all. Why, because it still tacitly assumes that value will primarily be created at the point of exchange ("great looking new camera, here's my credit card") rather than in a lifetime of camera usage ("stop the car! I must take at picture of that fantastic sunset over Point Lobos"). That doesn't mean that we shouldn't design products (services and experiences) together with customers, far from it, just that it doesn't count as co-creation.

If you read some of the growing number of papers on service-dominant logic, service science and even design thinking, you will see co-creation set out as a series of principles that guide our thinking about what co-creation is, how to do it and the benefits of adopting customer co-creation:

  1. Competitive advantage comes from applying knowledge, skills & resources - Competitive advantage is a result of how well a company uses its knowledge, skills and resources to help customers get important jobs done. Jobs-to-be-done is currently the best way we have to understand what customers really value. It is the foundation for customer co-creation, social CRM and so much more.

  2. Bring together an ecosystem of co-creation partners - A company may need to bring together a variety of additional partners to provide the right knowledge, skills and resources to help customers get the most important jobs done really well. The more customers focus on getting jobs done well, the greater the advantage in bringing together an ecosystem of partners to help them get them done.
  3. Use just enough collaborative social technologies - Technologies, particularly those that support ‘social networks’, provide the backbone for collaboration between a companies and increasingly, with customers. This doesn’t mean a technology-first approach. But it does mean selecting the right technologies (and only the right ones) to enable effortless collaboration.
  4. Co-create value together with customers - A company creates the most advantage by bringing itself, the right partners and customers together in the co-creation of value. Enough value must be co-created to satisfy all involved. Customer co-creation should not be played out as a zero-sum game. That was yesterday’s CRM and today’s branded CEM game.
  5. Understand what jobs customers are trying to do? - Understanding how customers combine knowledge, skills and resources to deliver the outcomes they want (from the jobs they do) is critical if companies are to co-create value with customers. The most value for customers is created over the lifetime of product usage. This is where co-creation needs to concentrate, not just on the traditional marketing, sales and post-purchase touchpoints.
  6. Create a co-creation platform for customers - By providing a ‘platform’ with the right knowledge, skills and resources on which customers can co-create value, the company provides customers with a superior experience that improves their satisfaction, loyalty and profitability. Most companies are only focused on the sale. Co-creation companies focus on the sale AND the many subsequent value creating opportunities that the sale creates.
  7. Bring knowledge, skills and resources to where co-creation takes place - If applying knowledge, skills and resources is the key to succesful co-creation, it makes sense to bring them to where co-creation actually takes place. This means embedding them in the design of products so that more value can be co-created at critical touchpoints. Design thinking provides a powerful toolset to do this already. It also means educating customers and other co-creation partners so that they can co-create more value together.
  8. Earn profits over a lifetime of product usage - If customers co-create value over the lifetime of product usage, companies can earn more value for themselves by adopting a collaborative, shared-risk based approach to pricing, as customers create value during usage. That doesn’t mean they don’t earn value from the initial sale, but it does mean they don’t have to resort to ineffective up-sell and cross-sell tricks to continue to earn value. Just think what that means for how you should manage customer service!
  9. Integrate partners from the centre - The best position for a company to be in is the central integrator of partners’ knowledge, skills and resources that enable the co-creation of value with customers. Particularly the company that sells, services and supports the customers throughout their lifecycle of usage. The companies that prosper from co-creation are those that are at the centre of it.
  10. Invest in customer-facing staff - Staff are a critical source of knowledge, skills and resources for companies, particularly front-line staff. They know customers and what jobs they are trying to do much better than anyone else. Along with customers, they are a great source of innovation through new combinations of knowledge, skills & resources that provide more value to customers. Particularly if you continually invest in their development.
  11. The customer ultimately decides what creates value and what doesn’t - Period.

This is quite an agenda for companies to think about. But the best already are: Companies like Rolls Royce, BAE Systems and Vodafone. As you can see, this a lot more than just designing new products together with customers. Real co-creation is all about what happens AFTER the product has been designed, sold and is in everyday use.

Oh, and maybe somebody will apply their own knowledge, skills and resources to help Wikipedia get the important job of providing encyclopaedic knowledge to the world done better.

Tip of the hat to @ariegoldshlager for starting me thinking.

Graham Hill
Customer-centric Innovator

Innovation and Failure

In Fast Company Magazine, Expert columnist Valeria Maltoni talks about several key lessons that can be learned from failure. For most people looking to create new products or dive into new innovation never before used, it is likely that they will not once, but many times, experience failures before success. This is a good article to remind innovators that what seems to be a failure may actually be helpful in the lessons it helps teach and ideas it sparks to help light the road to the success. Check out the full article here.

"We live in an era of rapid innovation." I'm sure you've heard that phrase, or some variant, over and over again. The evidence appears to be all around us: Google, Facebook, Twitter, smartphones, flat-screen televisions, the Internet itself.

But what if the conventional wisdom is wrong? What if outside of a few high-profile areas, the past decade has seen far too few commercial innovations that can transform lives and move the economy forward? What if, rather than being an era of rapid innovation, this has been an era of innovation interrupted? And if that's true, is there any reason to expect the next decade to be any better?

An article in BusinessWeek Magazine seeks to explain America's economic woes in the past decade due to a lack of innovation, that Michael Mandel says, merely got hung-up for a while until costs can be reduced, margins increased, and breakthrough innovations happen outside of core IT.


Est. 2008 | Aric Rindfleisch | Wisconsin School of Business | Banner Image by Bruce Fritz