When developing new products, we are too focused on technology itself rather than what it will enable. Yet it is often the unpredictable networks that emerge that are the most important thing.
The fundamentals of the combustion engine haven’t changed much in the last century. But the social impact of that invention has been massive. It gave rise to a network of roads which in turn led to the emergence of suburbs, changing how people live, changing their proximity and relationships with their extended family, changing where people socialise and relax. The road network also changed commerce, giving rise to huge retail parks on cheap land on the edges of our towns, fundamentally altering the economics of buying and selling direct to consumers. With the combustion engine, like almost all new inventions, what mattered over the longer term was what the technology enabled.
The Internet is still a young invention, where we are still focusing on the technology rather than what it can enable. Here’s a talk I gave about this recently (at The Conference in Malmo), why its so important, and some practical advice for focusing on the right things.
Main image: Duke University Archives