From Überstix to Posterous: Innovating Within SystemsBy Kim Gaskins December 29, 2009
Smarter Than Your Average Lego
A recent article in the WSJ showcased a new variety of children’s construction toys called Überstix. They don’t seem much different than traditional Legos, really. (Goodness, they’re certainly nothing like David Merrill’s Siftables–”toy blocks that think” from MIT’s Media Lab).
Überstix do exhibit the value of systems thinking, which is mirrored in some of the Web’s most successful developments today. (We like Überstix as an example because they’re so very tangible.)
Here’s what they look like:
Überstix can connect with… paper clips, cups, water bottles and popsicle sticks. When they are joined with these items, they can be transformed into boats that actually float, birds with wings that flap, and other play things.
“I wanted to design a system that was more functional, that worked after it was built and that was accessible to children of all backgrounds,” says [Überstix creator] Mr. Scarborough.
Wall Street Journal, “How I…Compete in a Legomaniac World”
Posterous: Malleable Innovation on the Web
Posterous is a blogging platform that allows users to publish via e-mail or Web. It’s made rapid developments this year, updating frequently about a plethora of features, including many ease-of-use integrations with other popular social sites (such as the ability to export data into Posterous for users who want to make a seamless switchover from alternate blogging platforms).
Earlier this year, Posterous co-founder Garry Tan told Latitude:
“There are 2 billion people on the Internet, but only 200 million of them blog–that statistic is incredible. I think it’s largely a failure of the services out there to cater to normal people; they cater to web-savvy, early adopters. We begin to solve this problem by being easier.“
In the way that “Überstix products are engineered to mate with all major build systems, i.e. Lego, KNeX, Erector, Zoobs, Zome, etc… so kids can integrate parts they may already have,” Posterous develops to work with users’ pre-existing service adoption and shared content needs.
This type of fluid integration with complimentary (and competitior) platforms renders services like Posterous insistently relevant and difficult for users not to adopt.
In recent studies on the nature of innovation, Latitude found that, of successful innovations across a variety of industries, more than 75% were not entirely new products or services–rather, these innovations recombined existing offerings in novel ways, or repurposed them creatively to reach new niche communities.
As digital connectivity increases, innovating apart–without “integrating parts [users] already have”–seems to present a much greater challenge to a variety of industries (not just Web technology), and for good reason.
Header image courtesy of kwl’s flickr, (cc) some rights reserved.