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Recognizing Lightweight Innovation: Key Characteristics and Technology Drivers

In 2007, the Institute for the Future forecast on lightweight infrastructure introduced a set of characteristics common in the design of emerging technical systems. When we look for lightweight innovation, we are more concerned with the characteristics of organizations and processes of innovation than the physical objects and networks of infrastructure.

Financial Lightweight Innovation: Thomson Reuters and the StreetApps Challenge

It's great to see a company that gets lightweight innovation and is willing to stick it's neck out. In partnership with NYC-based ChallengePost, Thomson Reuters is offering $25,000 in prizes to developers that create innovative mobile apps that leverage its financial data APIs.

FutureCast: Vinay Gupta on Lightweight Shelters & Disaster Relief (April 1, 2010)

Designing with Empathy

Join Jerry Michalski in conversation with Vinay Gupta to discus the hexayurt, an innovative design for lightweight shelter, and possibly the future of disaster relief.

Lightweight innovation for credit card companies

My colleague Anthony Townsend recently wrote a thoughtful report The Future of Lightweight Innovation for IFTF’s Technology Horizons program. The report is currently available only to clients, but Anthony has blogged about the report on several occasions. You can catch some important insights
here
. He makes a compelling case for porting lightweight innovation model which has evolved in the web industry to other industries, including those that rely heavily on capital intensive R&D.  

Lightweight Innovation: ShopKeep Upends Retail IT With Cloud Services

At a mixer for The Hive at 55, a new coworking space launched recently by the Downtown Alliance here in Manhattan, I accidentally met one of the employees of a new startup called ShopKeep. Founded by ex-PWC technology consultant turned wine store-entrepreneur Jason Richelson, the project grew out of the retail entrepreneur's frustration with available point of sale and retail customer management systems.

The Humanities Gaming Institute: A Model for Lightweight Innovation in Highly Traditional Organizations?

IFTF colleague Sean Ness recently drew my attention to an interesting lightweight innovation event being held this summer at the University of South Carolina, the Humanities Gaming Institute. During three weeks in June, a group of 20 fellows selected in a competitive selection process with work with three gamedesign experts to prototype new online games that can be used to conduct research and teach the humanities.

The architecture of the future

The New York Times has a piece (Future Vision Banished to the Past") about the likely destruction of Kisho Kurokawa’s Nakagin Capsule Tower, a "rare built example of Japanese Metabolism, a movement whose fantastic urban visions became emblems of the country’s postwar cultural resurgence." It's a piece that raises some interesting questions for futurists as well as architects and preservationists.


Nakagin Capsule Tower, from the New York Times

The building, built in 1972, is now in lousy shape (what a surprise for an architecturally distinctive building employing innovative construction technology), but the author argues that

the building’s demolition would be a bitter loss. The Capsule Tower is not only gorgeous architecture; like all great buildings, it is the crystallization of a far-reaching cultural ideal. Its existence also stands as a powerful reminder of paths not taken, of the possibility of worlds shaped by different sets of values.

Founded by a loose-knit group of architects at the end of the 1950s, the Metabolist movement sought to create flexible urban models for a rapidly changing society. Floating cities. Cities inspired by oil platforms. Buildings that resembled strands of DNA. Such proposals reflected Japan’s transformation from a rural to a modern society. But they also reflected more universal trends, like social dislocation and the fragmentation of the traditional family, influencing generations of architects from London to Moscow.

Like lots of twentieth-century architectural movements, the Metabolists were at least as influential for their ideas as their actual buildings. A lot of the more outlandish ideas from this period were never meant to be built-- drawings of walking cities were stimulating reflections on the nature of building in an impermanent world, but totally impractical-- but they made other, more prolific architects think differently about their work and the issues it raises. And they were arguably one of the most important advocates of a "lightweight infrastructure" approach to architecture, one that emphasized modularity, scalability, and standardization.


Nakagin Capsule Tower, photo by dod: via flickr

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