Things Businesses Need to Learn


Technology as a special effect
[Michael Schrage]

I've used this quote in my talk on influence at SxSWi, and again at SMX this past year for good reason — we are still enamored with technology for its own sake and miss the greater opportunity, which is that of creating experiences worth having. As in “What kind of world am I trying to create?

Then, “So how do I get the technology to do that?” In other words, the technology  is not valuable until you figure out the kind of impact you want to have.

The quote is from an interview published by MIT in its magazine and it contains more good thoughts for businesses. Schrage outlines three things companies need to get good at:

1. experiment by crafting good business hypotheses

“The cost of experimentation is now the same or less than the cost of analysis. You can get more value for time, more value for dollar, more value for euro, from doing a quick experiment than from doing a sophisticated analysis. In fact, your quick experiment can make your sophisticated analysis better.”

2. promote greater collaboration, interaction, and diversity

“not politically correct diversity, but diversity of skills and points of view.”

3. think more clearly about innovation

“It's no longer about creating new features and functionality. We have to move away from the notion of innovation being about greater creation of choice. Instead, it's about greater value from use.”

It seems fairly obvious that companies should be thinking about innovation as in greater value. Schrage answers the question of incentive:

“So often, when companies sell a product or a service, they don't look at how it's used. General Motors [Co.], until it started having OnStar, didn't care how people were driving.”

The greater cost today might be that of not experimenting, or ignoring or not seeking information on how value gets destroyed and things go unrealized. A better question is whether this is because of technology being too expensive (to buy, implement, and train teams), or culture driving the narrow set of choices.

The full interview is worth reading. It was published in 2010. Much of it still holds true.