Catch the Wave

Can users help with the technology trajectory???

In an excellent blog post that I have cited before SonyiPod , David Aaker asked the interesting question: Why Wasn’t the iPod a Sony Brand? His conclusion was that Apple timed the technology:

“The answer is timing. Apple got the timing right by entering the market when the technology came together. Of course, the Apple design flare, its brand, and its iTunes store were all important, but the timing was the key.”

Last weekend, inspired by Watson’s Jeopardy win I pulled out Kurweil’s “The Singularity is Near” – his take on the eventual triumph of machines over man. On page 3 famed inventor Kurweil notes that:

“I realized that most inventions fail not because the R&D department can’t get them to work but because the timing is wrong. Inventing is a lot like surfing: you have to anticipate and catch the wave at just the right moment.”

I shared that  quote with David Aaker and he said: “I love the catch the wave metaphor. It suggests also that there needs to be a way to predict when the wave will occur.”

How do you catch the wave? For those of us who study co-creation and user engagement:

Catch the Wave with Users?

Among the user- or market- driven schools of innovation I am aware of two approaches to “Catch the Wave”.

  1. Probe and Learn beta-testers and effectuating entrepreneurs would keep the bets small and keep participating in the market so that they are in the market, flexible and able to capitalize when the wave crests.
  2. von Hippel suggested included non-users but purveyors of the key technologies in his Lead User method to project when technologies will advance to key levels.

Those are two user-based techniques that address the need to Catch the Wave of Technological Development! Of course all user-engagement innovators actively scan the market and are open to outside innovation….

Am I missing other user-based approaches????

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3 Responses to Catch the Wave

  1. Gary,

    Great article!

    Starbucks is marking its 40th year with limited edition products, giveaways and a campaign in print, TV and more buzz in social media than you could get from their strongest coffee.

    So “timing” should play well for their newly redesigned logo, but only time will tell if their new logo is too simplified.

    Cheryl

  2. Nice article on your blog Gary!

    I agree with the statements. I think that one additional way of catching the wave is to see what user communities (well-organized ones but also loosely organized ones, for example on FB) are discussing. Their discussions will likely draw upon value-creating processes (how value-creation can be enhanced or how it is being reduced by obstacles).

    I once made a smaller experiment with customers to a service company which showed that ordinary people were able of generating very novel ideas. They were not lead users but they were able of identifying their often latent and difficult to express needs. I think that discussions around such needs is what I mean when I say that user communities is an opportunity to “catch the wave”.

    Best regards from Karlstad, Sweden

  3. gschirr says:

    I think I know the paper – telephony business, right? And the user ideas were both more innovative and practical than employees or “experts”, correct? (Should have thought to cite it myself!)

    Thanks for your insight! Good point on loose user communities… I really believe that the argument that users don’t have a big role when the technology change is significant is wrong.

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