How A Social Conversation Produces A Stream Of Innovation.
Are you participating in the social conversation about food? Almost everyone is, and it’s a wonderful example of how innovation dynamically emerges from interconnectivity and the sharing of ideas.
There are many participants with a wide range of points of view and experience and knowledge. There are consumers, producers, chefs, doctors, dieticians and nutritionists, stylists, bloggers and influencers. They’re young and old and in between, and of all ethnicities, education, professions, geography and background.
Multiple Streams Of Thought, Multiple Ideas.
There are two main streams of thought, with many sub-streams. There’s the food-as-indulgence stream – meals, dishes, recipes, ingredients, spices, flavors, pairing, presentations, and styles. And there’s food-as-health – freshness, clean ingredients, protein versus carbs versus fat, paleo and vegan, body chemistry, nutrition, digestion, and performance.
Interconnectedness Is The New Innovation.
This is precisely what is meant by the idea that interconnectedness is the new innovation.This social conversation among millions upon millions of interested parties and knowledgeable economic actors all over the world results in the sharing of ideas and the generation of new ones. Every participant has a legitimate input into the conversation – they all eat, and many of them are food preparers. Some of them have specialized knowledge to share, whether as health experts or nutritionists or chefs. Everyone is seeking betterment – better tasting meals, more pleasure, or improved health. Everyone has skin in the game.
The emergent innovation is fast-moving and multi-faceted. In the supermarket and online, there are new recipes with short, “clean” ingredients lists based on an abhorrence for ingredients with chemical names no-one can recognize. A package from Hu Products (Hu as in Human) declares: no gluten, no dairy, no refined sugar, no GMO’s, no cane sugar, no emulsifiers, no sugar alcohols, no soy lecithin. Less is more. Frugal innovation.
The Great Debate.
There is a great debate about the right proportions of fat, carbohydrates and protein. There are low-carb diets, high fat diets, (including the keto diet), high protein diets (like the paleo diet), and balanced diets. Some of these are said to be useful for weight control. There are also diets designed for more far-reaching health benefits than weight control, such as an anti-inflammatory diet, anti-diabetes diet, anti-cancer diet, and anti-alzheimer’s diet.
Support for all of these initiatives can be found from bloggers, food websites and apps, doctors, nutritionists and academic white papers.
On the indulgence frontier, there are meat chefs, fish chefs, fruit chefs, vegan chefs, innovative bakers and cake chefs (as well as cake artists) and pastry chefs and sauce chefs. There are restaurants for every taste, food type, ethnic cuisine and specialty. There are progressive restaurants – such as The Perennial in San Francisco, that runs its own sustainable fish farm, where the fish are fed composted waste from the restaurant – a burger restaurant (Momofuku Nishi) that makes its burger out of meat substitutes, and a gentrification-neutral restaurant (Everytable) that prices its menu items according to the median income of the neighborhood. There’s Asian-Latin fusion, farm-to-table, and pickle pairing (at Husk, in Charleston, South Carolina).
Not Just Food Innovation, But Also The Questioning Of Institutions.
In a Netflix film titled What The Health, filmmaker Kip Andersen investigates the impact of highly processed foods on both individual health and on communities. The film is heavily vegan biased – which is OK, since all information that comes to us via social conversation is biased by its origins and originators and it is up to us to recognize and process and balance the bias on our own. From its perspective, the movie asks some interesting new questions. If we are becoming more knowledgeable about how certain foods directly impact health conditions such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes, why is it that we find big government, big business and big health non-profits like American Diabetes Association, American Heart Association, and American Cancer Society promoting those very foods on their websites and other marketing materials.
The answer, of course, is crony capitalism and politics. The big health non-profits are sponsored by the big food corporations who manufacture the disease-associated foods. The government is lobbied by the same manufacturers, as well as by big agriculture. Big pharma would rather we were all chronically sick and in need of treatment, than all increasingly well.
The social conversation about food generates innovation not just in food choices, diet and restaurant styles. It also informs us sufficiently that we begin to question top down authority, and the motivations of those institutions that aim to control both our attitudes and our behaviors.
The Consumer Is The Leader Of The Innovation Process.
Where does all this innovation come from? It comes from the empowered consumer, in a new process of ideation and value co-creation through a network of co-innovators. The locus of innovation is not deeply embedded inside any firm, but rather exists outside the boundaries of the firm, in the marketplace. In this context, the internet and web-based technologies like social media are crucial tools in making innovation a socially interactive and open process that entails collaboration to share ideas, resources, and costs.
The Entrepreneur Co-ordinates.
The entrepreneurial role is not the origination of ideas and innovations, but the systemic integration of activities and resources through which market innovation emerges. Entrepreneurs foster interactions and relationships at the consumer-to-consumer level and at the “many-to-many” level. Entrepreneurs build bridges between people and ideas that might otherwise be disconnected. They also bring new resources, relationships and people together to foster market innovation. In this role, entrepreneurs use networks, especially the internet, that function as open platforms — spaces where market actors share ideas, integrate resources, learn, reach consensus regarding priorities, define roles, engage in joint action and sustain working relationships.
New services – such as new diets, new restaurants, new recipes, and new food pairings – emerge in full complexity through the connections in action among knowledge, data, people, processes, objects and devices. We call it a social conversation. Anyone can join in. No-one can control it. It rejects authority. It is open to new ideas. It makes our lives better.