Brown Returns as Distinguished Fellow
Former Information and Computer Sciences staff member, author and scholar John Seely Brown warned audience members of the dangers of linear thinking in ‘Innovating Innovation’ on Thursday, April 5, insisting that technological innovation can come about from looking around at present technologies instead of constantly focusing on the future.
In an exercise aimed at demonstrating the dangers of path dependency, Brown showed a video to the audience in the Student Center. In the video, three people were dressed in white, three people were dressed in black and each team held a basketball. Before starting the video, Brown asked the audience to count how many times the white team passed the ball to each other.
The video ended and most of the audience thought that the white team had passed the ball 14 times. Brown proved his point well when he asked the audience, ‘How many of you noticed a full sized gorilla walk through during the video?’
Less than forty percent of the audience had 40 the large black gorilla. Brown showed that it is easy to fail to see the obvious when overly focusing on one aspect of something.
Brown’s audience laughed hysterically when he replayed the video and the black gorilla blatantly walked through the shot. Brown was surprised with the percent of the audience at UCI that noticed the video the first time. He explained that when he showed the video to 2,000 military officers and told them to focus on the white team, only five noticed the gorilla.
However as positive outcomes of path dependency, Brown explained that innovations such as Ethernet networks are the effects of breaking into new paradigms.
Brown also discussed the negative power of skepticism on innovation.
‘Wisdom can stultify innovation,’ Brown said. ‘The more experience you have, the more you know why something can’t be done.’
Brown praised the successful innovative practices of companies such as IBM and Google