It happens here: Consumer-centric Innovation in Charlotte and beyond


Charlotte gets a massive dose of design thinking in April by Nheeda Enriquez

photo via sirconferences

I wanted to quickly highlight a handful of design+innovation events in the Queen City before they sneak up on us!  Who knew we were such a hotbed?!



(A small version of) TED is coming to Charlotte! by Nheeda Enriquez

How excited was I when I learned about this?!  Looks like details are still being formed, but a local version of the knowledge phenomenon that is TED will take place at the NC Music Factory in September.  You need to apply to attend, but admission is free if you are one of the chosen.  The RTP version is in just a few days.

Until then, here’s one of my favorites from Dan Pink talking about the topic of his most recent book, Drive, which is all about human motivation.  A wonderful lesson for service designers everywhere.



NY Times Year in Ideas: Ideas to fuel other ideas by Nheeda Enriquez

photo via NY Times

I’m a few weeks slow on the draw this time around, but one of my favorite end-of-the-year things to do is pour through the The New York Times Magazine’s Year in Ideas issue.  In the past, I’ve used it for a brainstorming exercise (sort of like a word-association activity, but as stimulus to inspire new applications for their product using one of the featured ideas.)

One of these is called Subscription Artists, is another take on crowdsourcing, where a recording artist finances her work by soliciting pledges from fans.  The article mentions Kickstarter as the tool to collect the funds, but The Point also does the same thing (I think Kickstarter is focused on artists.)  The beauty of these sites is that participants actually commit money to ideas that they like, where as some other crowdsourcing mechanisms often turn out to be popularity contests.

How might a company use a Kickstarter-like tool to figure out what features their customers value?



Copenhagen winds of change blow through Charlotte by Nheeda Enriquez

flickr photo cred: andjohan

I was lucky to catch up with Tracy Russ, a Charlotte-based marketing consultant, just before he took off for the global climate change negotiations this week in Copenhagen.  He talked about his most current project, The Copenhagen Story, which is a storytelling initiative in collaboration with former Sierra Club president, Lisa Renstrom.

Russ sees a big hole in the issue:  positive inspiration for change.  His innovative solution: get away from “scare tactics and gloom-and-doom scenarios” and give people a platform to see and hear about the future that carbon reduction efforts will ultimately provide.  And not merely from an environmental standpoint, but he hopes to collect stories about the economic and societal benefits as well.

After the conference, I believe the team is rebranding the project under the name “Convergence.”  Follow his progress here.



Random nuggets on the Hyperlocalism trend by Nheeda Enriquez

Since I wrote an article about hyperlocalism over the summer, I’ve been passively tracking the trend, and I thought I’d share these findings.

charlottedotcom

logo via charlotte.com

1.  Wait, what happened to charlotte.com?
Last week, I stumbled on the beta news site that the Charlotte Observer just planted in the old charlotte.com site.  In an attempt to retain its local readership, the site features social bookmark-like capabilities (similar to TimesPeople,) allowing users to sign on with existing Twitter, Facebook, et al. accounts.  It pulls in stories from other local sources, including Yelp reviews and blogs.  Time will tell how successful it will be as the data builds; I do hope it eventually introduces more visual design (a la Creative Search or even Newsmap.)

creat_search_sm

screen capture via creative search

2.  You, too, can consume and create.
Looks like the creative team at the Observer is looking for hyperlocal contributors.  Not sure if it’s related to the charlotte.com site, but it’s related to a grant with an organization called the J-Lab.

3.  So are people moving here or what?
Remember the buzz from earlier this year about all the people trying to move to Charlotte to find jobs in this recession?  Newsweek offers an interesting viewpoint on hyperlocalism that might suggest otherwise.



A case for optimism: Charlotteans envision life in 2020 by Nheeda Enriquez
2020-sm

click for larger

Though I’m still new to Charlotte, I’ve been energized by some civic events lately, most recently with Center City Partners’ visioning workshop at the Convention Center.  It was the first of 3 community workshops, inviting citizens to give input to city leaders on how to transform Charlotte by 2020.

Beyond the topic itself, I really enjoyed with the structure of the workshop.  The consulting group (MIG) and project leaders provided multiple ways to take part: via Post-It notes and comment cards, through verbal feedback, and even through streaming video and social media, thanks to the CLTblog folks.  They visualized comments and ideas on a large mural, which I know from facilitating ideation sessions, keeps folks engaged and contributing.  The meeting ended with a survey called an “Idea Lab” where we voted on 20+ concepts using green, yellow, and red sheets of paper, a method I’ve seen to evaluate product designs and even election debates, but it was neat to see it used as a temperature gauge for urban planning.   It all made for an optimistic night, where we felt free to think about positive change for a few hours.

I wish that more citizens came out to participate, particularly those with more diverse viewpoints outside of Uptown.  Though I’m a big fan of green spaces and walkable cities, I’m sure that there are others who could make the case for investing in other kinds of projects.

Follow all the action on Charlotte 2020 here.  I understand the survey and all the presentation materials will be available on the site soon.



Big Apps: A crowdsourcing example Charlotte might learn from by Nheeda Enriquez
311 app logo via Apps for Democracy

311 app logo via Apps for Democracy

I’ve been intrigued by a crowdsourcing challenge New York City is sponsoring that invites developers to submit solutions for new city apps in exchange for fame and a cash prize.  They are not the first to host such a contest – Washington DC did one last year.  For a mere $50K, these “non-profits” were able to solicit 230 resident insights and 47 applications in 30 days!

These challenges is that they blend two good innovation ingredients together:

  1. An attempt to understand what kinds of apps would be useful to consumers by collecting insights and needs.  The last thing my iPhone wants is an App that doesn’t solve a problem that people care about.  Both the DC and NYC contests leverage UserVoice to do this.
  2. A data mine for developers.  Big cities have lots of data that probably doesn’t get used, but if applied in a good context, you could end up with interesting results.  Making the data available promotes transparency and probably helps developers test their apps.  This reminds me of the super-successful Netflix Prize, where the company provided real data to help contestant programmers improve its recommendation algorithm.

I know that there are lots of clever developers in Charlotte.  I wonder what unique apps would help our own residents?  I know I could have used one today that tells me where the closest Wi-Fi signal is both free and strong based on where I am.