I can’t remember who originally said it, but it’s true that we have a two-track industry: sometimes change comes very quickly, and sometimes, it takes a lot longer. There’s multiple dimensions to this. Not least our inability to spot a good idea from a duff one.
Google Glass for example, or more broadly, 3D TV were touted as game changers. The former was quite likely to be an idea before its time, and the latter, well, perhaps we simply didn’t need it. That didn’t prevent multiple global corporations pouring literally billions into the concept, however.
And meanwhile, we have the success stories. Apple did not invent the tablet computer, but boy, did that Jobs chappy know how to drive home a point. He was right: previous incarnations of similar products simply didn’t cut the mustard.
Today, it’s largely true that Apple products command a premium: other companies have caught up, and in many cases surpassed the capabilities. Apple broke the (Wintel) mould, set the bar and freed up a lot of innovation-led thinking.
All the same, Apple happened to be in the right place, with the right ideas, at the same time. Last week I wrote how maths had been waiting for infrastructure to catch up; in this game, it can be more important to catch a wave, than ‘re-invent’ the surf board.
Individual innovations happen at a moment in time because they can: right now, there’s a queue of great ideas biding their time, founders setting out their stalls and hoping they don’t run out of money before the wave hits. If they do, don’t fret, hopefully the VCs will back the next great idea…
Meanwhile, many industries appear considerably behind the curve. In fact however, they both are, and aren’t: in travel for example, of course we will one day end up with some kind of micro-charging mechanism based on what we do, rather than what we book. The fact this doesn’t exist is because it can’t, not yet.
My old colleague Martin used to tell the story of Michelangelo: when asked how he carved the Statue of David, he replied, “I simply removed all the stone that wasn’t David.” We would do well thinking about the future in much the same way: take away the challenges, and let it unfold naturally.
Smart Shift: The world at your fingertips
No articles this week, but here’s a book section. Starting with Darius the Great and ending with Peter Gabriel, this latest extract from Smart Shift covers the explosion of networking and communications.
And finally, if there’s one thing this newsletter seems to have proven, it’s that I am unable to write something short. Nonetheless, this is the fortieth I have written, somehow. Not quite sure how that happened, but here we are.
As ever, thanks for reading.
Also published on Medium.