Innovation, Information, And The Future Of Tech
Level 3: Master of Mundane
Everyone loves the idea of “innovation” - as long as it’s kept at an arms length. Innovative things, like new tech and new ideas, take longer to adopt and end up looking very different than expected.
We’re going to explore why.
Understanding the differences between information and innovation will help develop foundational awareness for comprehending what the future of technology might look like and how to prepare for it.
Why do some things seem to go "viral" and take off, whereas other things—even if technically superior—fall behind?
“Better” Does Not Always Win
The “better” tech rarely wins. Why? Because “better” in the minds of the technician is very different than “better” in the minds of end consumers or users.
The iPod is a famous example. From a tech standpoint, it was inferior to its competitors: less storage, slightly slower, and fewer functions. Tech geeks worldwide knew this and, because of that knowledge, didn't buy iPods.
You know who didn’t know this?
The other 99% of the population. And when they heard they could have “1,000 songs in their pocket” they wanted it.
Techno-babble is innovation. Innovation does not get adopted.
More on that shortly.
The important thing when thinking about adoption of new ideas, is to develop a level of proactive empathy. “Better” may mean more efficient for you given your beliefs, preferences and priorities - but that same thing may violate someone else’s beliefs or priorities.
This will be an important concept when we talk about technology, AI, blockchain, etc. “Better” tech does not lead to mass adoption until it is no longer innovation.
Innovation Does Not Scale
Innovation gets attention, information gets adopted.
Here is an example:
If Elon Musk gifted me a new self driven, autonomous car…
Would you like to see it?
What if I told you it had no steering wheel and no pedals - no gas pedal, no brake pedal - nothing.
Of course you’d want to see it. It’s innovative, which piques curiosity.
What if I offered to let you drive it for a month?
Would you take it?
Everyone would want to see it.
Very few would want to get into a car that has none of the features they are accustomed to.
The innovation get a lot of attention, but very little adoption.
So how and when does adoption happen?
Innovation V Information
Diffusion Of Innovation1, by Everett M. Rogers is the foundation for modern marketing and the roadmap for diffusing new ideas. We highly recommend it as a resource.
Everett Rodgers defines the terms as follows:
Innovation: Something that widens the gap of uncertainty.
Information: Something that closes the gap of uncertainty.
Which means that was is information to one person can be innovation to another.
“Hey if you do X, Y, Z it’ll lower your A1C levels by 2% to keep you under 5.7%”
When you tell your tech-savvy friends about crypto, the more you say the more they understand. It’s information.
When you say the same thing to your family over Thanksgiving Dinner, you have confused the living hell our of them. It’s innovation.
The data is the same, to one crowd it’s information which helps increase adoption. The the other crowd it’s innovation which actually decreases adoption - confused people don’t adopt things.
So when talking to others, it’s helpful to remember:
If it widens the gap of uncertainty it is innovation.
If it closes the gap of uncertainty it is information.
Innovation does not diffuse, it diffuses as it becomes information to a wider audience.
Different Base Knowledges
Every individual possesses a unique foundation of knowledge, serving as the basis from which they form their reasoning and understanding.
Each tier (innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority, laggards) will have different base knowledge. Generally speaking innovators will be more educated, travel more, have a wider range of experience, more affluent, and can take bigger risks to do so.
Each tier puts a different weight on credibility.
Early Adopters Bias Competence Credibility. They make decisions based on their own level of competence or bet on the competence of others. These are the people that purchased the first Model S without every seeing one.
Laggards Bias Safety Credibility. Laggards bias safety, they won’t do anything until they see everyone else doing it and it feels safe for them (because everyone else is doing it). These are the people the will start purchasing the model 3 after all their friends and neighbors have them.
As you move to the right on the curve, the credibility moves from competence to safety.
Do they have a track record for success? Competence Credibility.
Are their peers and other influential people already doing this? Safety Credibility.
It’s helpful to recognize where along the curve you would fall.
If you are late majority (you like waiting until things feel safe and you see lots of other people already doing it), then don’t play in Crypto or AI right now. It’s a mismatch (Crypto at the time of this writing is still in innovators). Remember you can be in various places along the adoption curve for different fields. Just because you’re a laggard in one field doesn’t mean you’ll be a laggard at everything.
And there is no judgement, you can be successful regardless of where you fall - as long as you know yourself.
Five Adoption Decisions And One Massive Lever
Turning Innovation into Information. There are five adoption decisions that help innovation turn into information:
Relative Advantage- Why would I do this over something I already do? The new thing has to be relatively better than the old but it has to be better in the way the audience values.
Compatibility- Is this compatible with what I believe in that is important? Does this fit into my life? My religion? My values?
Complexity- How difficult is this to use or do?
Trialability- Can I try it? Being able to demo what the thing is at a low risk to you will lead to more understanding of the information.
Observability- Can I see it? Someone is way more comfortable with buying a Tesla or solar panels if they see that everyone else has one already.
The Massive Lever
How much reinvention has been allowed?
Viagra was initially developed as a heart medication. Through trials it was found to relieve headaches and through even more trials it did something else that people will pay a lot more money for.
The probably the a new idea diffuses to the masses is directly related to how much reinvention is allowed.
In other words, the more unexpected ways people use it, the more likely it is to be adopted.
A dogmatic view of a new idea or technology (blockchain is supposed to be X, AI just do Y, etc ) would be the huge limit to the actual adoption.
If it was decided the Viagra could ONLY be used the way it was intended from the beginning - we wouldn’t know about it today.
When you’re talking to someone, or a group of people, ask yourself: is this closing the gap of uncertainty for them or is it widening it?
If it’s widening it, you aren’t educating them, you are confusing them. Many attempts to get people to adopt something actually push them further away from adopting it.
6WU Wisdom Comes From Multiple Perspectives
We hope this article helped to shed some light on an important concept on how technology actually ends up diffusing. Share your takeaways in six words in the thread linked below and then read through what others have also wrote to be able to gain wisdom from their perspectives.