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Raja Choudhury

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Does crowd-sourcing Innovation and ideas encourage real Innovation or a culture of collective mediocriity, focus groups and slick presenters

Being a closet libertarian in the mold of Ayn Rand's hero Howard Roark (yes, I studied Architecture as well), I can't help but fear the words crowd-sourcing, collective consciousness, etc. I spent many years designing websites and multimedia campaigns based on the feedback of focus groups and I can tell you nothing really creative came out of that. The most real innovation came out enlightened clients willing to take risks, innovative collaborations between a variety of disciplines and the leadership of talented designers and thinkers.The core ideas need innovators and then the crowd can participate in building. The original Freedom Tower at WTC was unique and amazing (Liebskind) but the new one looks just like another boring skyscraper anywhere. Why? The collective. Once a great idea is formulated and tested by an individual or small team funded by innovative funds then it can be spread by or further funded by or exploited by the Crowd. Anything else will be mediocre or just satisfying a perceived public demand. As Elsworth Toohey, the greatest advocate of collective consiousness in literature, says in the Fountainhead: "Artistic value is achieved collectively by each man subordinating himself to the standards of the majority. " - Ouch - this is not the world I want to live in. Thoughts?

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Closing Statement from Raja Choudhury

Platforms like TED, Edge, Kickstarter, Rockethub and Indiegogo are essential for sharing great ideas and drawing together collaborations and investments that may not have existed before. But someone or a small team has to have a great idea first and we must nurture the individual (introverted) designer/researcher/thinker/philosopher/author/scientist from an early age by also giving them a world where both the individual creative and the crowd can co-exist in a complementary way.

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    Jul 24 2012: Steven Johnson in his TED talk presents research to the effect that most innovation may not, in fact, typically come from the lone genius. That said, the perils of thinking as a committee, for example by brainstorming in unison, are well established and recently reiterated in Jonah Lehrer's latest best-seller about creativity. Brainstorming results in fewer creative ideas than the pooling of independent thoughts about a problem.
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      Jul 24 2012: Combining individual genius is definitely worthwile but I think it works best if you do individual work and then compare notes. A million monkeys typing just type a million times more nonsense :-)
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      Jul 24 2012: You must read Quiet by Susan Cain - she was on TED as well - has a great history of innovations and i inventions developed by introverted individuals away from the maddening crowd. I think that of course innovation can occur in groups - particularly groups of talented individuals from different specializations - and I also think that platforms like TED or EDGE are critical for making knowledge available to the widest number of potential innovators - but I think true brilliance does come from pottering away at an equation or a design or a problem by oneself or in small groups. Crowds are ideal for funding, sharing and marketing....

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