This is an awesome topic that I love to share with people whenever I can.
Innovation is something that can be thought of in several different ways, however there are good ways, and then there are better ones.
Innovation can be basically anything that solves a problem that has not been previously solved, or it can be something that solves a problem that was previously solved, while solving other problems at the same time(these are the better ones).
There are really two perspectives into innovating. One is purely the scientific aspect of it. The physics, the research, the testing, the technology. Then there is the practical, social side of innovating, which does not always agree with the scientific side.
The process of innovation should contain both views, almost at the same time. It is not enough to innovate and solve one problem technically, while socially creating another problem.
A quick example of this may very well be gas powered vehicles. They’ve solved a huge problem in enabling faster travel, but they’ve also caused a sort of social dilemma, because people are almost forced to use them in some fashion, and they are now proven to have negative impacts on air quality and perhaps weather.
Innovation should be approached from the view of the true designer: the architect, who builds not only for aesthetics, but for purpose, and function. The architect builds for the social function, while utilizing the best scientific practices and innovations available. But the purpose is always foremost, for the people.
People are weird. They do not really seem to fit any set pattern as a whole. There is an infinite variation, and this must be accounted for in design.
Innovations when designed for people, tend to solve the most problems, and leave the least behind. The best innovations, the truly beautiful ones, seem to leave no problems behind, and just fit, like a puzzle piece finally being snapped into place.
When designing Beat-Play’s music search solution, I ended up solving several social problems: How do I find new music? How do I find good music? How do I not waste time searching for music?
The way I solved these problems was to think about it from the approach of the social first. The first step is always to survey what already exists. I studied the different methods of how music was found and shared now.
I found some methods that were better than others, and I looked at the best ones, and searched out the problems there. It turned out that I found some.
The best solutions available at this point for finding music are Pandora or Last.fm, where the music is suggested and played for you, allowing you time to focus on other things. This is a great innovation, but I saw flaws.
It went right back to thinking socially. Pandora finds songs based on other songs, using basically scientific data and variables to link songs together into an automated playlist.
This I knew, was the wrong way to think about it. People are not defined by any given variable. They are defined by many variables that vary all the time. Music is no different. It is a mere extension of people. There needed to be a social way for people to find music.