The world of innovation is awash with acronyms and tech terms: AI, AR, VR, CV, Bots, Mix Reality. It seems that every few months a new piece of pure technology is being born.
Yet, two people who have created significant innovation in the last fifteen years explicitly say that you address a person’s or group’s problem first, and then find the tech to support the solution. You don’t start with AI, AR, VR, or Bots and look for a problem they can solve.
“You’ve got to start with the customer experience, and work backwards to the technology” - Steve Jobs
“There are many ways to center a business. You can be competitor focused, you can be product focused, you can be technology focused, you can be business model focused... But in my view, obsessive customer focus is by far the most protective of Day 1 vitality.” - Jeff Bezos
What this means is that we have to look beyond the newest technology born in a lab as well as beyond what people themselves are currently asking for. To quote Wayne Gretzky, we need to move to where the hockey puck will be.
How do you do that? You have to look for fundamental needs: communication, transportation, living spaces, health. What are the unmet needs in these areas and what will they be in the next 10 years?
Airbnb and Uber each met a fundamental need. It was not the technology that led their innovation, rather it was the need and the experience. You can of course make things faster with better technology, but neither of these culture changing companies created any new fundamental technologies; they used sometimes decades old technologies in new ways.
When you start with a new technology you are limited by its context and its lack of history. It is something looking for a home; there are many cases of technologies that should never find one.
If you want to innovate, stop reading tech blogs and start looking around at people's most basic needs and make those better. Those needs represent big markets that can change the culture of our society. By creating real people-centered innovation, you have the possibility of creating products and services that people will eventually be unable to imagine the world without.