Petri Dish examines possibilities to synthetically create optimal conditions for innovation through continuous research and iterative experimenting. The experiments take form as a weeklong retreat for leading people from various fields who gather to develop groundbreaking ideas.
With increasing numbers of technologies hitting the interesting part of the exponential curve, the amount of possibly groundbreaking ideas ready to be explored is exploding. However, many of these potentially world-changing ideas might not come to light for a long time because the people at the cutting edge are focused on previous projects. Some of the most innovative ideas which are cross disciplinary in nature might take even longer to surface, as they require people from different fields gaining meaningful insight into the latest technology of a field they are not closely familiar with. Petri Dish aims to accelerate the rate of innovation by developing a scalable format for creating optimal conditions for innovation.
How Petri Dish is different from hackathons
Hackathons are important and welcomed initiatives which try to solve a lot of the same problems as Petri Dish. While there are almost no significant organisations on record that have been born out of any hackathon, it is very likely that many relationships which were formed during hackathons have led to great positive impact. Hackathons do however not track this kind of information, and do not try to optimise its processes to maximise this type of out outcome. Hackathons are also traditionally focused mostly on programming, engineering and design, and do little to re-create how innovation works in the real world.
At Petri Dish we believe that truly great ideas are slowly developed over time, not forced out in the spur of the moment, and that an impactful innovation process is not necessarily bettered by a ticking clock and prompts to build! build! build! While the Petri Dish format optimises for high quality long term outcomes, it does not mean that we don’t believe in rapid prototyping and failing fast.
The program was founded on the belief that many of the factors which are important for the creation of groundbreaking ideas and a productive innovative process are intangible, hard to measure elements which are often not taken into consideration in classic research on innovation. Petri Dish attempts to gain a better understanding of these factors through continuous and unhampered testing of different approaches and a results oriented evaluation process. In other words- quick and dirty.
The methods, assumptions, concepts and processes being tested are listed and discussed prior to execution week and translated into actionable parts of the program. The evaluation happens during and after the program by discussions and interviews with the participants. The resulting conclusions are published on the Petri Dish blog.
Why discard scientific methods
There is plenty of science grade research being done on innovation. Petri Dish is about taking a serious approach to learning about how innovation works by using the methods that academia cannot. This of course has obvious downsides, but also a few upsides. Disregarding meticulous documentation and things such as control groups allows for much faster iterations. Revoking the requirement to design experiments of scientific grade with quantifiable results opens up many new unexplored possibilities.
Petri Dish is working under the assumptions that there are discoveries that cannot be made under the constrains of science grade standards, however a rational and scientific mind-set is strictly kept during every part of the process.
Examples of concepts being explored at Petri Dish
What team size is optimal for forming meaningful relationships, and building a productive culture?
What mix of people is optimal for intellectual cross-pollination, creative flow and building a productive culture?
What effect does diversity and gender equality have on the group dynamics and culture?
What level of facilitation is optimal for creativity and productivity?
What processes and community guidelines are most effective for creating a productive environment?
What are the most effective ways to motivate people to work together and explore new ideas?
Adam Peleg co-founded one of the first m-commerce startups, Mixtiles, pioneering the field and helped building several other digital businesses which have reached millions. Adam lectures about digital strategy and business at Hyper Island since 2012, and provides strategic consulting to dozens of companies. Adam shares his thoughts on medium.com/@adampeleg and the Petri Dish blog.