Appetite for disruption

I was recently at MOSI having another look at the 3D printing exhibition and their new exhibit called The Innovation Race, about the Manchester munitions work during the First World War. In amongst the letters and displays there is a corner set aside for children to design their own inventions based on a set of titles such as the viper-firing rifle. It is certainly true that many of the inventions used today were often first developed as part of a military effort. For example Bluetooth relies on frequency hopping technology which was originally developed to avoid wireless transmissions being jammed during WW2; and the ARPANET side of the Internet’s roots was funded by the US Department of Defence.

Times of stress and chaos can often be a boon to innovation as people start thinking about their priorities differently and an attitude of “we’ve always done it this way” becomes “oh why not, give it a go.” Obviously in a work environment this is less likely to be caused by an interdepartmental war and more likely to be caused by system failure or disruption such as building works.

Emergencies give you a new set of rules to play with, such as “try to perform at your usual high standard while missing half your staff/ trying to work with combined departments and tasks while their building is out of action/ having to do it without the shiny new system that has decided not to work this month.” It can involve going back to basics, trying to do new tasks or having to decide which processes can sit on the back-burner for now. People doing new tasks can see them in new ways and having to prioritise what is and isn’t essential can be eye-opening in itself.

The middle of actual disruption isn’t the best time to be innovating, although a few innovations usually crop up, but using pretend chaos as a possible tool in innovation sessions can be useful in sparking new ideas.

  • What would you do if you couldn’t use system A?
  • What questions and suggestions does department B come up with on hearing about department C’s procedures (and vice-versa)?
  • How many of your processes are fixed by your current location and what would you like/hate to change if you had to move elsewhere?

The Innovation Race is at MOSI till 17 April 2016 and the 3D printing exhibit is there until 20 September 2015.

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Are you ready to Rock(heim)?

As a massive music fan and technology nerd, it would have been remiss of me not to visit the incredible spectacle of Rockheim, one of Trondheim’s two museums dedicated to music. Catering to the more popular side of music, and taking in humour, children’s music, hiphop, prog, black metal, pop, rap and more, Rockheim gives the visitor a comprehensive overview of Nowarys musical past and present in an arresting building, using incredible, innovative and inventive installations.

I smiled patiently as the helpful museum worker told me that Rockheim is a little more technological than most museums. I listened as he showed me the floor plan, with its little symbols denoting how visitors could interact with each area. What I expected was a museum with some interactivity, what I realised as I exited the lift on the 6th floor, was that interactivity isn’t just a bonus of Rockheim‘s installations, it is the lynchpin.

Six huge screens greet you after exiting the lift, they scroll periodically with Norwegian musicians, and it is your job to select who you want to listen to by standing in a designated circle. Motion sensors then react to your movement and breakdown the image of your chosen musician, shattering them, and when you move away from the circle, an excerpt of one of their songs is played. To stop it you stand on the circle again. It is a wonderfully interactive introduction to the museum, even if it does mean forcing other patrons to listen to your music choices.

Laser pointers play a big part in the experience of Rockheim. In the next section I used one to learn about how different developments in musical instruments and equipment have affected Norwegian music. By aiming the laser pointer at a sensor, visitors are able to cycle through various examples of the instrument. Half the fun is finding which sensor applies to your screen and ‘accidentally’ switching the content on someone else’s screen by ‘mistake’.

The 50s garage room, fully equipped with garage-like contents such as a convertible, tools and a picnic set, was punctuated with screens which acted like windows when they weren’t being used. If you looked through the ‘door’ of the garage, you could even see a woman baking a cake. This ‘screen as window’ idea is used throughout Rochkheim and is a really effective use of displays. Using screens this way integrates them into the exhibition rather than using them just as simply a means to display information.

The tour bus was another highlight, utilising recreated music newspapers on interactive screens and more screens-as-windows to display articles and videos. But don’t take my word for it, check out the promotional video:

The following video is one I took in my favourite room. Norway has a rich history of black metal bands, and this room was set up like one of their rehearsal rooms. There was beer bottles strewn all over the foor, and the entire room looked and felt like a dark, dingy log cabin in the middle of nowhere.

Rockheim is an incredible experience, it’s innovative, memorable and fun. A perfect example of integrating technology into an experience, suitable for adults and children, Norwegians and visitors alike. 5 stars.