Monday, April 7, 2008

The Feigenbaum Hall of Innovation

This article is posted on behalf of Susan Griffin at BrianJuicer. She can be contacted at susan.griffin@brainjuicer.com


While we are all thinking seriously about all the business implications of innovation processes, we thought we would add a post with some anecdotal "juice", perhaps apropos of nothing, but some fun food for thought.

This weekend in the New York Times there is a very interesting article about the recent renovation of the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, Massachusetts and the grand opening of Feigenbaum Hall of Innovation.

Anyone who has ever visited this wonderful little gem in the Berkshires recognizes what the Times article describes as a "curiosity closet".

It is a mini version of places like the American Museum of Natural History in New York, or the British Museum in London (where a recent exhibit called Enlightenment brought out hundreds of books, works of art and decoration, and artifacts, demonstrating how collectors in the 18th century classified and viewed the world by their collections).

The Berkshire Museum is the kind of natural history museum of the distant past that assembled all kinds of things from the natural world (typically in musty old cabinets with everything from mummies to mineral collections to taxidermied birds and butterflies pinned to boards, to local flora and fauna and art works).

As a kid for me, this was the kind of place that presented the natural world, the arts and the sciences, in a way that prompted wonder and inspiration.

In conjunction with a multi million dollar renovation program, the Museum has opened the Hall of Innovation to highlight "local innovators". The Times article takes issue with some of the selections, and the lack of depth in the discussion of the process of innovation. The innovators honored include:

- Zenas Marshall Crane is given his due for turning the family-owned paper mill, Crane & Company, into a business of national importance by patenting bank note paper marked with identifying fibers in 1844

- Cyrus W. Field, who succeeded in laying a trans-Atlantic cable in 1866

- the minor figure Clarence J. Bousquet, a local businessman who created nighttime skiing in 1935.


The article ponders: So what is the innovation?

My reaction is that these individuals (back in a time before we expressed innovation this way) were authentically reacting to a recognition of a perceived "consumer insight".

Ask any rabid skier if nighttime skiing was an authentic innovation and they would say "Hell, yes!".

I guess we would say at BrainJuicer that in the eyes of a consumer, if a product or service expresses a fresh truth that resonates with a perceived need, it is potentially an innovation.

But more than that, at a time when consumers increasingly demand the opportunity to co-create and participate in new product development and innovation, we applaud the opening of the Feigenbaum Hall of Innovation, and exhibits like Enlightenment at the British Museum, for their potential to delight and inspire.

(For those of you attending Front End of Innovation in Boston in May, the Berkshires is a terrific pastoral weekend destination at the far western edge of Massachusetts, and maybe a visit to the Feigenbaum Hall of Innovation is in order! )

posted by Susan Griffin, http://www.brainjuicer.com/

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