The tech sector’s Achilles heel is often the very thing that makes is such an innovative space—its love of the latest and greatest technology. Shiny new code, software, algorithms, hardware, and systems spark a rat race among companies competing to be deemed the most innovative among their peers.
But when you strip away the hype, innovation is beneficial only insofar as it is useful to your customers or your bottom line.
Just as often, existing tech—if used wisely in innovative ways—can accomplish your goals better, faster, and cheaper. Ultimately, tech is just about problem-solving. And not every new technology is right for your organization, let alone your users. So instead of trying to always get in on the latest and greatest trend, you might want to reconsider the tools you already have and know to devise new solutions.
New tech does not equal a good product.
There’s a difference between great technology and a great product.
When you run a company, your business hinges on the success of the products or services. And technology is just a tool to help you get there.
So while new tech is exciting to use, it might not result in the best user experience. Or, it might be expensive to produce and maintain. It might also just be old technology masquerading as something new—like blockchain, for example.
As Arvind Narayanan, an assistant computer science professor at Princeton wrote in 2015: “‘Private blockchain’ is just a confusing name for a shared database.”
Narayanan argues that the key innovation behind blockchain was the so-called proof-of-work consensus mechanism, which was intended to replace the need for a central authority. The crypto makes the system harder to tamper with and easier to audit, but these aspects weren’t Bitcoin’s innovation. In fact, Bitcoin’s creator tweaked them only slightly from the earlier research going all the way back to 1991.
Put simply, while blockchain does have some properties that make it more conducive to cross the boundaries of other companies like Bitcoin, most companies don’t need that. There’s very little you can do with blockchain can you can’t do with older tech. Mastercard’s blockchain, for example, seems to have no function outside of marketing since Mastercard admits that payments are still running through its existing system.
But because tech companies—especially the younger ones—are most often run by true techies, not product people, they get distracted chasing the newest tech. In the process, they lose sight of what makes a product successful.
The truth is, much of the time, the newest tech isn’t the answer you’re looking for.
The user should always be front-of-mind.
When you’re looking at problems exclusively from a tech perspective, you lose sight of the most important part of a business—your customer.
And unless you’re examining things from the user’s perspective and their journey, your solution will likely be half-baked.
Let me give you an example: My internet platform, Collide, was created to value the user experience in ways Instagram and YouTube do not. We didn’t need any new tech to do this, we just leveraged existing tech to focus on the user experience as opposed to generating ad money—which is most social media companies’ primary goal. With features like video calling, content sharing, and virtual meetings integrated into a single cohesive platform focused on monetization, Collide enhances the user’s ability to earn from their craft.
While the tech isn’t new, the experience is—therefore generating value for the consumer.
Good user experience comes down to whether you’ve done your due diligence and asked the right questions up front. How are you making the customers’ lives easier? How will you get the customer to come back? You should be asking these questions whenever you implement a new feature or product.
Many companies give lip service to user experience and generally don’t hire a legitimate product person. Or if they do, they don’t allow that product person to have a voice at the table. But they ought to, because real change has to be organizational.
It’s not just about getting the job done—it’s about providing value to your customers.
The best solution is probably right under your nose.
It might feel counterintuitive in the tech world, where innovation reigns supreme, but often the best solution is to stick with what you know—and tweak it to create the optimal solution.
Think about space travel, which most people associate with the most cutting edge tech imaginable. However, astronauts have found surprisingly low-tech solutions to solve complex challenges. For example, it’s often prohibitively expensive to launch huge contraptions into space. In fact, it costs $10,000 to put a single pound into Earth orbit. But Brigham Young University engineers used the ancient Japanese art of origami to figure out how to tightly compact solar arrays before shipping them off. They teamed up with an origami expert and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory to plan out a solar array that could fold down to nearly a tenth of its deployed size—significantly lowering costs.
And the thing is, they didn’t need to implement any fancy new to do this. They drew inspiration from an ancient practice to solve a modern problem.
When tech companies chase new tech, they get in their own way and lose customers in the process. Because users often object to change of any type—even improvements—it’s key for tech companies to ensure that they are, in fact, improving things.
Ultimately, if the new tech isn’t solving the problems needed to run your business, stick with what you know.