One of the most common and most impactful use-cases for the Cognitive City is as a tool that allows organizations or individuals to reliably and repeatably facilitate innovation with diverse stakeholders using a data-driven, AI augmented, methodology. The methodology that is described in this article has been co-developed with support from the European Institute of Innovation & Technology (EIT) and proven to show reliable results through engagement with their Climate Knowledge and Innovation Community (Climate-KIC) and multiple other organizations world-wide. 

Individual Innovation Facilitation. This column outlines the process for using the Cognitive City on your own to discover potential radical innovations within a dataset by finding valuable, non-obvious, novel combinations of existing knowledge.

Group Innovation Facilitation. This column outlines the process for using the Cognitive City to convene a group of diverse stakeholders and facilitate a conversation among them that yields innovative co-produced insight in under an hour.

Information Assembly. Regardless of whether you are pursuing individual innovation facilitation or group innovation facilitation, the first two steps in the process are the same. In order to innovate within an area of interest or address a particular problem to be solved, first a body of information must be assembled within the Cognitive City upon which the subsequent activities can be performed. This information will be heterogeneous in nature, but should include information about people that may be invited to participate in facilitated conversations. This activity involves building a Cognitive City model suitable for holding the variety of applicable information, collecting the information from sources outside the Cognitive City, transforming the collected data into a format suitable for importing into the Cognitive City, performing the import, visualizing the results to assess data integrity, and manually curating the data as necessary to form a suitably interconnected network of people and concepts. Follow this exercise to learn how to assemble information within the Cognitive City.

Sub-Network Identification. Once a suitable information network has been assembled, the second step is to find smaller sub-networks within the larger information network that have good conditions for facilitated innovation. This activity often leverages AI augmentation - the use of Termscapes that leverage natural language processing and/or third-party large language models like GPT - to transform unstructured text data contained within the information network into more structured information that can be used in the network mapping process to find and bridge structural holes. Finding structural holes in one dimension of the network that can be bridged through a different dimension of the network is the key to illuminating hidden innovation opportunities.  

Combination Identification. Once a sub-network has been identified that appears to have sufficient structural holes in one or more dimensions and sufficient coverage in others, novel combinations of the elements in the sub-network can be identified through either manual or automated methods. Manual methods involve using multiple linked visualizations to look across multiple dimensions of the sub-network. Automated methods involve using the Matchmaker functionality to have the system build optimal combinations based on criteria established by analysis of the sub-network.

Cohort Invitation. Once a cohort has been identified, this activity involves inviting the people associated with the cohort to participate in a facilitated innovation process. This involves creating personalized visualizations that are able to successfully communicate to the cohort stakeholders why they are being invited, what specific knowledge they hold that is critical to the network as a whole, and what external knowledge via other cohort stakeholders will be present from them to synergize with, what the value of innovative outputs would be, and what credit they can expect to receive for participation.

Cohort Convening. Based on the cohort stakeholders that accept the invitation, this activity creates a network visualization suitable to serve as a boundary object for group conversation and establishes a time for them to convene. This activity also includes the development of a pre- and post-convening data collection strategy to supplement the information network either prior to convening and/or afterwards to capture thoughts generated. This activity also involves deciding whether the cohort will be convened physically, virtually, or in a hybrid setting.

Convening Facilitation. This activity involves using exaptive’s facilitated conversation methodology to engage the cohort around the concepts represented in the boundary object generated by the previous activity. Discussion of nodes in common is used to quickly establish a relational conversation dynamic grounded in an underlying context of psychological safety. Conversation then proceeds to outlier nodes and works to have the group collectively reposition the nodes in the network to reflect a new conceptual landscape based on the conversation - a landscape in which physical distance between nodes represents the degree to which the cohort has found them to have combinatorial potential. The conversation closes with attempts to derive new ideas based on areas where nodes that started out distant from each other have come closer together as a result of the conversation.

Capture "Sparks". The review of the combinations illuminated by the individual workflow and the facilitated conversation conducted in the group workflow should both generate "sparks" of ideas. These sparks should be captured within the system and linked to the data elements that led to them. These sparks can be assigned digital object identifiers (DOIs), if desired, to support future citation and assignment of credit.

Ownership Handoff. The focus of this repeatable innovation process is on the idea-generation phase, not on the execution of the idea. The ownership handoff activity seeks to identify whether any of the ideas that have emerged, either through the individual or group workflow, are of sufficient interest to any stakeholders for them to assume ownership of them. Ownership may involve diving into execution on the idea, or may involve taking some responsibility for iterating again on the activities above.