Kevin Mar-Molinero, Creative Technology Director at Kin + Carta Connect, discusses how the latest technology can blind us to the true source of innovation.
Innovation and technology aren’t about technology
Innovation isn’t new and shiny technology, that’s gimmick.
Innovation isn’t the latest design principles, that’s trend.
Innovation isn’t service design or CX, that’s HCI.
Innovation is working with extreme edges of the bell curve to solve human problems.
Existing, as we so often do, within the confines of this agency/tech bubble it's easy to find ourselves obsessed by buzzwords. Trends that permeate our culture, be they creative technology, service design, voice, AI or immersive technologies, are treated as the de-facto explanation of innovation.
In truth this bubble is one that acts more as an echo chamber for own obsessions than as a true definition of innovation.
Naturally as technologists, user experience specialists, strategists and designers we are drawn to the power and imagination of the new. For many of us it's the answer to the “why” of our jobs. However, more often than not we don't question our own motives for chasing these trends, nor question if our definition of innovation is correct, instead we are (to misquote the situationists) returning to the normal.
Beware the blandness of the pack
We've all fallen into the trap of staring wide eyed at the latest tech demo, design tool or white paper, dreaming of its potential.
That projection mapping concept we had in 2014; the IOT device that would change everything in 2015; the pitch that was Pokemon Go but for… in 2016; an innovation solution of how we could use Watson to create the campaign of 2018 and so on and so forth.
But instead of our desired result the "innovations" began to mirror each other, ideas become separated only by rice paper, designs mimicking the tools we use, (Sketch as a design trend) and our technologies flooded with the same fashionable coding library and tools.
We resolutely pull the wool over our eyes and convince ourselves this was being creative with tech, or thinking in ways others didn't. Yet in truth we were merely the sheep, copying, following trends, and thinking from the wrong beginning.
Many brands are stuck in technology pilot purgatory. There needs to be real substance behind our use of technology, driven by real understanding of human need. In short: We need to think beyond technology, tactics or task force to something a lot more human-focused.Baiju Shah '3 Misconceptions to Abandon While Implementing Brand Innovation' (AdWeek)
It takes a certain sense of maturity in your career to realise that innovation doesn't come from those positions. In fact, true innovation begins from somewhere completely different. It’s agnostic to technology and trends, at the edges of the bell curve, solving a problem for people first. It's perhaps easiest to look at some examples of how this manifests.
The ‘real’ Internet on your phone
Apple's iPhone is rightly heralded as a game changing piece of innovation, many parts such as the touchscreen or UI could have been hailed as breakthroughs alone, though both had been done by others.
So then what was the key innovation feature that set it apart?
It’s perhaps fair to say the most insightful innovation was one Steve Jobs cited as the revolutionary part of the device. The ability to have a real web browser in your phone.
A simple key human insight, that having the internet as you were accustomed to it available in a phone, transformed both the purpose of mobile devices, and arguably the way we act in all aspects of our lives.
This is a revolution of the first order, to really bring the real Internet to your phone.Steve Jobs