Are conference calls the new coffeehouses of idea enlightenment?

Edison is believed to have said "genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration", and nine out of ten times "implementation trumps innovation" when it comes to achieving commercial success, but is it just me, or has the well of new ideas around cloud computing run a bit dry recently?

Big Data is rapidly gaining ground on cloud computing when it comes to search popularity on gartner.com. And SDN (Software Defined Networking) may be flavour of the month in cloud blogs, but although there is a succinct impact on cloud computing, this is really more a networking idea.

Now of course,  cloud computing is only one force – and mainly an enabling one - in the nexus of cloud, information, social and mobile, but when monitoring the various publicly available industry news feeds, I get a bit of a Groundhog Day (the movie) feeling.

You might even say we have taken a step back in some cases, with enterprises implementing older concepts - such as managed hosting - under the moniker of cloud, as my colleague David Mitchell Smith described in a recent post on reverse cloudwashing.

Is it because everyone is so busy hammering out existing cloud ideas into products that there seems to be less new ideas around?

Back in 2009 I wrote about the 4 Ps of Innovation  (Problem, Ponder, Publish, Pilot), and although there still are a lot of publications, many of them revisit ideas first seen in various cloud industry blogs.

Now I understand that blogs are supposed to be about things that haven’t been built yet (otherwise we would call them brochures), and that today’s publication also cover implementations, references and even failures, but it did make me stop and think about the process of idea creation.

Nowadays any thinking starts with browsing, and that led me almost straight to a TED talk on "Where good ideas come from?" TED evolves around "ideas worth sharing", and possibly an even more effective way to share ideas is to animate them in the way the RSAnimate project of the Royal Society of Arts has been doing.

What the video clip did to music, these short animations are doing to ideas: visionary speeches and pitches (put them on YouTube). Here is the four-minute animation of "where good ideas come from".

In Gartner we have what I would call "institutionalised idea mechanisms", that include the creation of regular publications such as hype cycle reports, predicts and - a bit down the implementation road - cool vendor reports. Over the past months I have had the pleasure of participating in some of these, and all serve towards rating, categorizing and vetting ideas and concepts.

In addition we have our Research Communities (RCs). The form factor of most of these RCs are conference calls, and although these in general are more productive (although less funny) than the classic "The Conference Call"  by David Grady, I am glad we complement "the days we work with Sparky" with in-person and off-site meetings.

As Steven Johnson discusses, most ground breaking ideas were not epiphanies or eureka moments and like good wine, ideas do get better when shared, regardless of whether they are shared in a meeting, a conference call or a nineteenth century coffeehouse.

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