Innovation With Visualization: Seeing Things Differently

Innovation is more than good ideas brought to life – it’s about seeing and changing the systems around us in new ways

I recently was introduced to this app called Radio Garden, which graphs a 3-D map of the world (a globe) with radio stations from each part of that world. Wondering what’s playing in Madelena in the Azores right now? No problem, just click and listen in. I love it.

This app is taking advantage of our sense of proximity to provide an added value to our sense of discovery around music. Radio stations, unlike conventional streaming services, are still largely place-based providing programming designed for a specific regional market. Thus, we have many country music stations found in places like Texas, Central Australia and Western Canada, hip hop music stations readily found in New York, Los Angeles, and Johannesburg; with techno-pop filling the airwaves in Berlin and Ibiza. Of course, these forms of music are played all over the world and sometimes in unusual mixes together, but there are regions where they are more popular and that’s what local radio focuses on.

Radio is still a regional medium despite the ability to stream stations online and Radio Garden’s interface allows us to consider these regional differences in finding, selecting, and listening to content.

One of the audio pleasures I have is listening to Monocle 24 – an entirely online radio station focused on a global audience (and an exception to the rule, with the globe being its region) — play the top hits from different regions in the world as part of some of their news shows. Thanks to this segment in shows like The Globalist, I’ve been introduced to music from Japan, Serbia, Peru, and every continent because they recognize that even though they are global, there is still much interest in local content.

Radio Garden builds on this and allows me to see what’s playing in any country at any given time. Visualizing proximity adds new value to music searching and my love of international music and news.

Visualizing Systems, Creating Innovation

James Donison, a photographer and video production professional from JimJamPro based in Australia, has many clients in the real estate industry. In addition to providing interior photography and video home tours, James constructs 3-D visual models of a property’s neighbourhood using drone-based photos that show prospective buyers where a home is situated in proximity to other things a buyer might find useful. The image above is one such example where James has used an aerial shot to highlight shopping, transit, and a casino nearby to an apartment building.

We can find this same property on a 2-D map that would reveal the same features (check it on Google Maps to illustrate the differences between the two representations), yet by using a different perspective and combining both photography and digital markers, James creates a sense of vibrancy to a map of a property. This allows a prospective buyer a chance to better visualize what it might be like to live in that neighbourhood. While interior shots are standard for selling homes, real estate professionals are consistently looking for ways to better showcase properties and the kind of visual representations like those of JimJamPro are ways to do that, especially when more buyers than ever are shopping online for safety and convenience.

3-D photography visuals are not a replacement for maps and interior shots, rather they showcase how where you are positioned reveals different things not to the exclusion of Google Maps, but as an extension to it. James and JimJamPro add new value to existing products. Radio Garden is re-visualizing existing products.

This ability to create new perspectives is an important aspect of innovation.

Creating Options

When we are seeking to innovate or promote some kind of change, this variety of perspective is critical to showcasing options. James Donison provides his clients (and their clients) with options. Radio Garden is providing a new way of ‘seeing’ radio, providing new options for listeners and potentially radio stations to promote their work and help others discover them.

Diversity of perspective is a critical component to navigating complexity in a system. The more interconnected pieces of a system that are in play, the greater the need for diversity of perspectives to gain a sense of what is going on in making wise decisions. In the case of real estate photography, some of that complexity is manifest in time (to see each property, to see multiple properties), timing, safety (for single people, in times of a pandemic), availability (of the buyer, seller, agents), and much more. In some cases, these variables are all changing at the same time. By being able to provide options to tour and view a property and its neighbourhood at a distance, James and his clients are providing greater perspective on the system in which a home sits.

Visualization helps us do that. The addition of visual elements or other sensory features, changes our experience and provides options.

Some lessons from this are:

  1. Value can be created by building on other products or services. Radio Garden is drawing on other systems to pull together radio stations and providing the same content that can be found elsewhere, but it’s organizing it.
  2. Providing alternative perspectives is value in itself. JimJamPro’s 3-D photo maps technically don’t show anything that isn’t already on Google Maps, yet they provide a wholesale different perspective on all of that content, adding considerable contextual value.
  3. Visualizing relationships is systems innovation. Visualizing a system of relationships — a radio station within a country, an apartment block within a neighbourhood — provides insight into a system, not just a product.

In your next project consider ways to visualize your system. Tools like system or sketch maps can be ways to do this. Pulling out your camera is another option (or simply engage professionals like James Donison, who does much more than real estate work and can work remotely). Software like Miro, Mural and Lucidspark can help you as well. Or just use pen and paper. Get and give perspective by making your next project visual.

Visualize. Create. Innovate.

Note: A big thank you to Geoff Wilson for ‘tuning’ me on to Radio Garden and for inspiring this post.

Image credit: James Donison from JimJamPro

Cameron D. Norman

I am a designer, psychologist, educator, evaluator, and strategist focused on innovation in human systems. I'm curious about the world around me and use my role as Principal and President of Cense Ltd. as a means of channeling that curiosity into ideas, questions, and projects that contribute to a better world.

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