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Made Manifesto

V. Innovation with a purpose

August 01, 2017

We’re as susceptible as anyone when it comes to getting distracted on the Internet by the latest innovations, whether that be Augmented Reality, Chat-bots, or Cat GIFs.

However, in the rush for relevance, it’s very easy to jump on a new development without a clear sense of purpose. It’s the definition of FoMO - Fear of Missing Out.

Do you remember The Lawnmower Man? It was a Hollywood blockbuster about Virtual Reality. It’s from 1992. Even back in 1992 some pioneering VR companies were touring shopping centres and TV studios with headsets not so dissimilar from the ones you see emerging today. How they worked, and what they did, was clear, even if why you would want them was not. Many of Made’s web developers weren’t even born back then.

 

No doubt in 1992, in performing arts centres around the world, artistic directors were rushing boardrooms, crying ‘VR changes everything - theatre as we know it is dead’. And perhaps - ultimately - it is. But it’s only just now, in 2017, that VR is reaching a point of convenience where it could feasibly impact on our work in a meaningful way. Of course any Performing Arts Centres to decide in 1992 to divert all their resources into VR would have gone bust long before that happened.

Yesteryear’s science fiction becomes today’s reality, eventually. The iPhone is the Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy made real.

And this is how we feel about many new bleeding-edge technologies. New technology is exciting. Most of the dreams we have about what a technology will do for us in the future come true. Yesteryear’s science fiction becomes today’s reality, eventually. The iPhone is the Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy made real. But just because we reach the point when we can envision something, it doesn’t mean its impact is imminent. The event horizon for those technologies is often much more distant than we think. And when the technology does arrive, it often does so after several mis-steps, and in a subtly altered form.

Think of touch-screens and tablets. They existed one way or another for decades, but it wasn’t until the iPhone that we all saw how they really needed to work. You may even be old enough to remember the dotcom boom and bust. Today we order groceries, clothes and - yes - pet food online, and don’t think much about it. But the dotcom boom presumed we’d fall over ourselves to do so the minute it was technically feasible, then punished the pioneering companies that jumped too soon. Ironically, we all purchase our goods online from one of the few dotcom survivors, Amazon. But only because they persisted long enough to iterate until their experience attained pervasive convenience.

For an agency like Made the trick is to be aware without being naive. To comprehend the potential impacts of a technology, to envisage the ways in which it will change our lives, but to act on it just as the impact starts to crystallise.

Whilst we do maintain much older websites, we tend to think of the useful lifespan of a website as three to five years. So when we start work on a new website, we’re looking to address new technologies that will have a meaningful impact on our clients within a three year horizon. Whether it’s mobile, social, emojis or the latest Google algorithm, we need to act when the technology reaches a material tipping point, that’s going to move the needle for our clients. Yes, this kind of thinking led us to miss out on Pokemon Go (which has already Pokemon Gone). No, we don’t regret it.

In the meantime, it’s hard for us to get excited about a new technology in business hours if we can’t find an imminent use. And we won’t waste client billings conjuring up a use to serve the technology. We’re a technology design business, so while individually we’re going to get excited about robots and space travel, that’s not our raison d’être when we’re on the clock.

Required Reading

  • The Lawnmower Man 1992 science fiction action horror film directed by Brett Leonard and written by Brett Leonard and Gimel Everett.

  • FoMO a pervasive apprehension that others might be having rewarding experiences from which one is absent.

  • Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy fictional electronic guide book in the multimedia scifi/comedy series of the same name.