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No more lists: The robotics approach to idea management

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Social media is great for sharing and promoting ideas within communities. But what sort of ideas usually get the most attention and move to the top of the list or news stream? If you’re honest, the answer is often the very dumb (don’t get me wrong, I love a cute kitten as much as the next girl) or the very controversial.

That’s great if you’re looking for something on Facebook to distract you from a boring Friday afternoon, but when it comes to sifting through and amplifying innovations in more serious settings, this aspect of list-based social media platforms isn’t ideal. So what might work better? A new company that emerged out of research from UC Berkeley thinks the answer may come from an unexpected source – robotics.

This week Hybrid Wisdom Labs is announcing a system called The Collaborative Discovery Engine at the Web 2.0 Summit Conference in San Francisco. The system takes a new approach to idea management via social media by doing away with the list format entirely.

Instead of some sort of ticker or stream, the system employs colored blooms (aka circles) of various sizes and colors that are slightly reminiscent of word clouds in the sense that they present a visual representation of ideas under discussion. The blooms are dynamic, however, and their positioning and color indicate similar ideas and highlight which are gaining the most positive feedback. This approach has two benefits over existing social innovation tools, according to David Wong, CEO of Hybrid Wisdom: scale and speed.

“It scales to support thousands of participants without sacrificing speed in finding the best solutions,” says Wong.

What does this have to do with robotics? The technology necessary to make the blooms of color work was born in that discipline. According to Ken Goldberg, UC Berkeley professor and CTO of Hybrid Wisdom: “Robots have to be aware of space and geometry, and to rapidly filter vast amounts of complex data.”

So will this new robotics-infused flavor of idea management find favor among users? General Motors, Unilever, Humana, and the US Department of State have all tried out the technology. It was also tested by an unnamed Fortune 500 company to solicit and evaluate ideas from customers, and the public can currently test out the tech on the company’s website. But it’s still early days yet.

What do you think, will dynamic blooms beat lists when it comes to idea management?

Image courtesy of Hybrid Wisdom Labs.

3 Responses to “No more lists: The robotics approach to idea management”

  1. Dustin Haisler

    What you’re alluding to is actually far bigger than just idea management. No matter how many ways we find to present ideas, we must come to acknowledge that innovation is not all about ideas. Innovation comes from crowds, and crowds can do more than just submit ideas. At Spigit (, we’ve been researching and building new models to support a shift that’s happening in the way that work gets done. Future work will not use employees for just ideas or insight, they’ will enable ecosystems (consumers, businesses, etc.) to build, create and act. I would be happy to chat more about what we’re working on if you’re interested.