#infocampSEA: Beth Kolko Plenary Speaker

Beth Kolko gave a fantastic presentation on innovation, particularly on non expert innovation. Melding the concepts of equity and justice in product design and observing that expertise is often merely the difference between great ideas and crazy ideas (and the crazy ideas are sometimes genius), Kolko recommended The Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton Christensen. She cited multiple examples of so-called disruptive thinkers (non experts) begetting truly innovative ideas.

  • A 13-year old African boy invented a lion proof fence using lights to keep cattle safe.
  • A car mechanic watching a YouTube video on removing a cork from an empty wine bottle invented a low cost device for delivering babies (the Odon device) in developing countries.
  • A Detroit metal worker invented a method of flash heating steel to save energy and increase strength.

“Imagination is more important than knowledge” – Albert Einstein

The remainder of the presentation was about making things and making connections through shared vocabulary, hands on learning and collaboration. Kolko developed the Hackedemia site (where you don’t have to be an expert to be an innovator) where projects come to life. Another site mentioned was instructables – a DIY online place to share what you invent or make.

Not surprisingly, Beth Kolko, besides being a UW professor, also has a company called Shift Labs. Simplicity can be the impetus to some pretty cool products.



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