Today, we can create most things we can imagine. But this wasn’t always the case. Technology has made this possible. Which technologies and how are they shaping the products we build, the businesses we run and the world in live in?
It is no secret that most companies today want to be both tech savvy and innovative. But they are not the same. A company claiming to be innovative because of its use of new technologies - like AI, ML, Blockchain, etc. - is like a blacksmith claiming to be innovative because of her use of a new hammer. A new technology – like a new hammer - is merely a tool. Using one does not make you innovative. And claiming to be innovative because you are using one is just, well, silly. Real innovation occurs when you solve a pain point, even if it’s done with an old tool. This is not to say new technologies are not helpful. They are. Especially at doing things better, faster, cheaper. But don’t adopt them with the goal of being innovative. Adopt them to solve a problem your current tools cannot. Innovation will follow.
It’s easy to take anything that tech giants do and use it to justify your action. For example, if Amazon, Apple, Uber, etc offer free shipping, instant delivery, insanely good design, etc., it can be tempting to use it to justify why you should do the same. While doing so may very well be the right thing to do, know that these tech giants have large scale, deep pockets and exponential network effects, which you may or may not have. So, do the due diligence. Where it makes sense, use them as justification and do what they do. Where it does not, use them as inspiration to see how you can do it over time.
Consider these examples. People prefer to eat at home (doordash, grubhub) yet, wait time at good restaurants can reach upwards of an hour. Content is king but the leading social media player only allows 140 characters. Artificial intelligence represents extreme intellect yet cannot replicate common sense
You see what’s going on here. Individual things are great but it is the extremes that makes them fun.
Instant delivery, one-click-purchase, insanely good experience etc. are great uses of technology to show you are customer-centric. But these are also designed to get customers to part with their money. Be customer-centric also where customers are supposed to get back their money. Replace 30 days mail-in rebates with instant ones. Give cash – instead of in-store credit – even if receipt does not exist. People notice these things. Do the right thing. Be customer centric at all times.
The sheer pace and scale of technology is so large that there’s a good chance the competitor likely to disrupt you in the next 3-5 years either does not exist yet or does so in a different industry that you may not factor in your competitive analysis anyway. This is not to say that competition is not important. It is. But there’s something – rather someone - even more important your customer. So, while you focus on your competition, OBSESS about your customer.
Never before in the history of mankind has the impossible not just seemed possible but imminent. Flying humans, gene editing, mind reading, etc. From being considered impossible when we were growing up to being on the cusp of becoming a reality, technology has pushed the limits of what we can do and expect. While fear is a natural emotion amidst this technological change, this is not the time for it. It is time to go BIG while of-course making sure technology is used for good in an ethical and principled way.
Nitin is the CEO of Mobile Doorman, a former Management Consultant at McKinsey & Company and Board of Trustees Member at the Naperville Public Library. He advises Company Boards, CEOs and BU heads on product strategy, growth and operations. He also has multiple US patents (5) for design and development of mobile, wireless and networking technology including a patent to extend smartphone battery life. Nitin holds a masters in Electrical & Computer Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin and an MBA in Marketing & Finance from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.