When the masses embrace new technology incendiary language soon
We used to try to edit Hatto. Now we just give him to you in the same way you get water from a faucet. Take it as it is:
The Unwritten Evolution of Tech
There is nothing “new” about technology except its perceived value.
The push pin may seem commonplace today, but in 1900 Mr.
Edwin Moore single handedly re-invented the way communication
travelled through message boards. Imagine trying to place a want ad on
a board without a push pin? The brilliant, revolutionary, and
disruptive invention was so widely embraced that Edwin Moore sold
$1,000 worth of push pins to the Eastman Kodak Company the same year –
that’s almost $30,000 in today’s value.
Most would not consider Mr. Moore a technologist but then what is a
technologist? What perceived value must be achieved before this due
title is bestowed? If technology is about facilitating the flow of
complex information, communication, data, or even physical goods
across great masses of people or distances – the concept of the push
pin truly is revolutionary. Let’s not forget that computers merely
translate complex series of 1’s and 0’s – originally conceived by the
Here are a few other companies that go unrecognized in the realm of technology.
Quite possibly the most well-known restaurant in the world is at the
forefront of innovation. Beyond diabetes and obese inspired recipes,
McDonalds mastered how to flash fry a whole cow in a matter of
minutes, transform a potato into a salted cardiac arrest in seconds,
and serve over 30g of syrupy soda in an instant. Even these
evolutionary culinary processes did not cure their biggest hiccup. The
people serving the quarter pounders with cheese could not count.
No matter how successful a business, if the employees collecting the
money are under collecting you don’t have a business – ahem Greece.
So McDonalds invented the app. To overcome this obstacle McDonalds
built simple terminals, customized software, with gigantic screens and
big colorful buttons. These machines may act like cash registers, but
they are much more. They are the first customized application to
ensure that users don’t have to compute numbers, not even type 1.99
into a machine, but rather just press a large image of Big Mac to tell
a complex network of back room chefs and back office statisticians
that is what the customer wants. Why, so that everyone knows that
everyone is getting what they want and at the right price. Trying to
re-teach someone math is far more difficult than teaching someone to
press a button once for one and twice for two.
Beyond getting police officers drunk to ensure his planes took off,
Fred Smith had a much larger problem with FedEx, namely paper. With a
large distributed network of employees around the globe, Federal
Express’s business was truly mobile. Anytime a package was
dropped-offed, picked-up, delivered, returned, or lost a piece of
paper was required. After along it was difficult to know what to keep
track of first the paperwork or the packages themselves.
No matter how mobile the business, paperwork always holds you back.
Just ask anyone at your local police department.
So FedEx invented mobile computing or dare we say the tablet. Federal
Express had already mastered the tracking number but the management of
the client signatures was the problem. With a large human presence
FedEx created the handheld signature scanner. Processing mass amounts
of data and providing clients with a device to sign instead of a piece
of paper helped coordinate, organize, and maintain all package
information in one place. Now the focus of the business shifted from
paper management to delivering packages on-time. Technology helped
Never leave home without it is possibly one of the great tag-lines of
the 1980’s, but only in so much that Amex had a customer problem and
hoped that marketing would help solve it. Turned out that customers
where more fickle and less convinced. It’s difficult to imagine today,
but the early days of credit cards was the equivalent presenting a
Filo-Fax as a CRM solution today. Credit was viewed as a social faux
pas. To use credit was to socially pronounce that you could not afford
what you were consuming or that you were light on cash.
So no matter how brilliant the idea, preconceived social convention
will triumph, think Marie Antoinette.
So American Express invented the loyalty points system or in my view
gamification. How does a company overcome social stigmatism? Give
users a distraction or “other” reason. American Express’s Rewards
program is as celebrated as it is used. What better way to get
business users to flash Amex over Mastercard then to bribe reward free
air miles and travel awards and send the bill to the employer. This is
truly an innovative master stroke. From gaining rapid market share in
the world of business, users where able to justify paying for meals
with American Express because “they want the miles” or “If I reach
100,000 points I get to go to Mexico” when the truth was they didn’t
have the cash and their company was paying the bill.
So what’s the point here? Today people talk about innovative
technology companies yet never do they mention some of America’s
largest blue chips. We can’t say that craigslist would not have
existed if it wasn’t for the push tack, but I’m willing to bet that
Steve Jobs once ordered a large fries from McDonalds, received a
package from FedEx, and had a Black American Express card in his
pocket and he thought: “Wow these boys are smart, but I can do it
better” and then he went on to create the App Store, iPad, and iTunes.