Innovation: The difference between search and discovery

Seth Godin writes about Search vs Discovery:

Search is what we call the action of knowing what you want and questing until you ultimately find it. Duckduckgo is a search engine that is mostly invisible–tell it what you want, here it is.

Discovery, on the other hand, is what happens when the universe (or an organization, or a friend) helps you encounter something you didn’t even know you were looking for. (I had originally typed find but then replaced it with encounter. Search is such a dominant paradigm that we use search-related words even when we don’t intend to.)

This is an important part of innovation. One of the reasons why starting innovation from people is powerful because it provides an opportunity to encounter something new, something that we did’nt know what to ask for. Especially if you use design techniques like card sorting or rapid ethnography rather than focus groups.

If you already know what to ask for, it may provide an improvement, but for transformational change you need to be ready for discovery.

Seth Continues:

Are you working to help your clients, patrons, customers and colleagues find what they already know what they want? Or teaching and encouraging them to find something they didn’t know they needed?

I am all for the second one. Teaching and encouraging them to find something new.


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