MEREDITH Strategy + Design

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Networks and innovation: Chris Meyer

Chris Meyer is CEO of Monitor Networks and the idea man behind the FutureMonitor, a tool that attempts to envision what business will be doing in the next two years.

He is also the author of a number of books, including Blur: The Speed of Change in the Connected Economy.

Chris's presentation, with a theme of "memes," resonated throughout the conference (he also did the conference endnotes).

In these presentations, I am impressed with the subjects that seem to show up with consistency in conversations and references. Early in his presentation, for example, Chris mentioned Richard Dawkins and his book, The Selfish Gene. Dawkins talks about the end of genetic evolution and the continuity of cultural evolution. In the book, he coins the term, memes, to describe the replication of an idea through imitation. He calles memes "the new replicators."

Chris had established a definition of "memes" as a copied behaviors or ideas, reproducible in the mind.

Chris traced the path from the industrial economy to the information economy by tracking the path of an idea from science to development in technology to implementation as a business and the growth of the business into an organization. He called a business “a set of capabilities” capable of “recombining to make things.”

He charted the behavior of network growth from simple binary interactions. Not much happens until there is a critical mass that develops, and then, suddenly, there is a phase change ("vastly accelerated change through networks"), and a whole new platform of operations occurs.

Mapping other characteristics of networks, Chris established that there is a “sweet spot” in the small world between randomness and order where great things can take place.

He said that human behavior—what people are willing to do—is the key constraining factor in the potential for innovation.

Establishing the importance of speed, he quoted Jack Welch, “When the rate of change outside exceeds the rate of change inside, the end is in sight” for organizations. He cited Affinnova as a great example of how new processes are increasing the pace of innovation.

I was especially impressed with the concept that "connectivity doubles progress every decade."