I’m off to an innovation and design conference in China put on by Patrick Whitney of the Institute of Design. Some 150 business people and designers, half from China and half from the US, Europe and Japan, will be in Beijing for two days, Dec. 1 and 2—plus trips to Shanghai to visit Motorola, SPoint, and other design meccas. My hat is off to Patrick. This is his second conference in a month.
The last one was made infamous by Michael Bierut and his brilliant observation that designers now talk of themselves as innovators. It created a storm in the design world and enormous comment in the innovation world—two worlds that overlap but are not the same.
In China, I’m moderating a panel debate between Sina.com and Baidu.com which should be terrific. They are the top internet sites in China, Sina being one of the first, Baidu just having a very rich IPO. Everyone says that Sina is more a portal like Yahoo and Baidu is more a search engine like Google but then everyone also says they are morphing together and doing both search and content. We’ll see. There’s an interesting discussion of Baidu at Innovation—Business Innovation, a blog set up to plug a Fortune conference on Innovation. I don’t know much about the conference but the site is good and I hope it remains after the conference passes. It quotes Andrew McKay who is studying at Tsinghua. McKay talked to the R&D guys at Baidu.
One last word before taking off. Patrick Whitney is beta testing a software program for ethnography that is potentially explosive. Ethnography is now the new market research—and the data is getting the same treatment (thrown into the drawer and forgotten). There is so much out there, people can’t cope. In addition, ethnographic research is generally very expensive. So you have expensive data that people ignore.
Whitney’s program systemitizes ethnographic information that can be collected by others on the ground overseas. The program makes anthropolgical data comparable in different categories over time and place. Whitney used it when he had people in India do ethnographic work and had them send it along to his researchers in Chicago. He says it is 10% as expensive as regular ethnographic research and about 70% as good. That may be good enough. It will be out of beta testing by next year, he promises.
See you in Beijing, Patrick.
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