Simple Innovation

14 Apr 2003|Added Value

In today’s Wall Street Journal, Lee Gomes writes about the difficulties that technology companies have in predicting the future – how the hype never quite matches the outcome. He cites a number of revolutionary technologies, like the laser printer, whose initial launch never touted the keys to their eventually success. He also mentions some overly hyped products that never lived up to the future they envisioned.

I think the points that Gomez makes can be applied to industries and issues beyond just technology, and are especially relevant to marketing. First, often the greatest breakthroughs come by “doing something useful, simple and slightly new” that people can immediately embrace and build on. Second, he states that “While all predictions are problematic, we should be especially wary of those that don’t contain a healthy sense of respect for the way people do things now.” The key words being “respect” and “people.” To understand if something will succeed or fail, it’s crucial to understand people – how they live and what makes sense in our lives. Lastly, Gomes notes the irony of the Valley – “the more hype something gets, the less likely it is to amount to anything.” I think the lesson here might be under promise, but over deliver.

We can invent the future, but we shouldn’t be so cocky as to declare what it’s going to be. At best, we can keep our eyes open, study the scenarios, and be ready when it comes.

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