Vague but exciting – the creator of the Web

“Vague but exciting” is how Tim Berners-Lee‘s boss described his initial proposal for the World Wide Web. It seems like a description that applies even today. The inspiration for Berners-Lee’s work came from a book called Enquire within and upon Everything, another appropriate description for what you can do online.

Berners-Lee worked on the Web because his employers said “not yes but not no” to doing it. He thinks that this approach – giving employees some space to think or find alternative ways to solve problems – would be beneficial for most employers. We often say that the most intelligent people don’t work for us, but it’s also true that we too often don’t give those who do work for us enough space to generate new ideas.

Don’t tell them what to produce – you’re looking for new ideas, don’t give them your old ones.

You don’t always know why you are doing what you’re doing; why it will be useful. And if you do then it’s probably not research. Some companies do embrace this approach – letting employees have 10% of their week to work on their own projects (as at Google) or opening up your innovation to those outside your organisation (as P&G do with their online communities).

Bringing people together from different disciplines

Talking about his current work on web science, Berners-Lee shows how it’s important to bring together people from different disciplines. For him the web isn’t a connection between web pages or between computers but a social tool – a link between individuals. So developing and innovating in the Web you don’t need just a set of developers and coders, you need to understand people’s motivations and behaviours online and then develop tools and other innovations that support and enhance this.

As we say at FreshNetworks, getting something right online is about more than just the technology.