President and CTO of Brado, overseeing the company’s digital marketing, data science and NLP technology.
Michael S. Malone, a journalist who has long covered the technology beat and how new technology has unfolded in the crucible of Silicon Valley, observed in 2006, “New technologies always take longer than we predict, and arrive sooner than we are prepared for them.” Why this disconnect?
The reasons are twofold. First, we need to harness the technology itself in the form of products and services to find the most promising applications. Second, we need to anticipate how technology users will respond. In some ways, the technologies themselves are easier to understand than whether the users potentially embrace or reject them.
In considering whether to buy and use any technological innovation, here is the key question potential consumers typically ask: Will the advance in technology mean a better life for me and, if so, how?
The answer is an intensely personal one. How does technology intersect with your lifestyle, career ambitions and aspirations for a good life? The solution also depends on what areas of life you expect to most dramatically or forcefully feel technology’s impact. Work? Home? Health? Money? Technology will continue to have an effect in all these areas and more.
The Territory Ahead
Recognizing that technological change is likely to affect different people in different ways, let us outline a few of the areas in which technology seems to be having the most impact.
1. The workplace: Boundaries are shifting and, in some cases, disappearing altogether. The Covid-19 pandemic, of course, has been a great accelerant. This pivot to remote work reveals that real change can be pushed only so far by technological innovation. The other half of the change equation must be the pull of user adoption.
2. The smart home: Many smart home products have been appearing on the market: smart speakers, video doorbells, smart locks, smart lighting, security systems, smart thermostats, robotic vacuum cleaners, smart TVs, water leak detectors, garage door openers and sprinklers. The next hurdle will be to get them to talk to one another and work in sync. This past year signaled both recognition of the need for interoperability and tangible signs of progress.
3. Consumer-driven health: As the public health system and healthcare delivery networks have struggled to meet the capacity challenges of the pandemic, patients with other healthcare needs and concerns have had to adapt more proactively. Reliance on Covid-19 rapid test kits and telehealth visits provide more examples of market pull rising to meet the push of technological innovation.
4. Super-apps: Although the U.S. has been at the forefront of technology innovation, we lag behind several other markets (mainly Asia) in the development and use of what Scott Galloway calls super-apps. The super-app is distinguished by its integrative and widespread application across all manner of consumer activities and daily life challenges. Galloway points to China’s ubiquitous WeChat as a prime example, noting that it’s “possibly the most heavily used piece of software on the planet. On WeChat, you can find a date, hail a cab, pay utilities, even get divorced.”
5. Planet-saving technology: Any accelerated schedule to reduce CO2 emissions will undoubtedly require a significant boost from technology. Electronic vehicles are at the vanguard of this movement, but some promising CO2 capture technologies are now in the development stage, receiving substantial private investment. At least one is in the pilot stage.
How To Accelerate The Adoption And Diffusion Of New Technology
On the one hand, many new technologies are emerging and developing at exponentially increasing rates. These technologies tend to be informational or digital in nature and now include such areas as artificial intelligence, quantum computing and nanotechnology.
On the other hand, as these technologies advance, their uses multiply. At present, these payoffs are mostly in areas like automation, healthcare, entertainment and other forms of experiential consumption (for instance, the metaverse).
For many business leaders, patience may be an important part of implementing new technologies. Those who manage product and service development plans must allow time for collaboration and integration. Great technological leaps in the past—such as electrification and the build out of the internet—required interconnected, often disparate, innovations before they entered the marketplace and changed human culture and individual lifestyles.
Visibility, Trial And Adoption
We’re seeing a similar situation unfolding now with smart homes and precision medicine as more innovations and inventions build upon one another. Eventually, the advantage will go to those developers and marketers who can coax behavioral change in the market.
Business planners and decision makers must understand and master the technologies they commercialize. But, at an even deeper level, they must understand how technology offers the user a better future. They’ll need to look beyond the technology itself and how it works and figure out how the user will manage the disruptive change that such technology often ushers in. Moreover, they’ll need to reflect on how the user must adapt or otherwise change to fully capture the potential benefits.
The companies that thrive will be the ones who get people to try new technologies, make using them highly social and visible and inspire people to change their habits. These business trailblazers will demonstrate the relative advantage of new ways of navigating modern life.
Technology will provide the toolkit to build a new future. But the adoption of new tools will require businesses to push them into the marketplace and marketers to pull in users and encourage them to imagine a better future and then commit to it.