In 2012 we witnessed the retirement of the space shuttle as well as the near-death spiral of Blackberry. Technology obsolescence has occurred throughout time. Specifically in regards to software and technology, obsolescence is a serious issue that subconsciously motivates every product development cycle. How does a company retain customers for their existing core competencies, while venturing into progressive product development for the years ahead?
Already in 2013 we have seen the problems associated with technology obsolescence manifest itself in the reorganization of Blackberry (formally known as RIM) as well as the buzz surrounding wearable computing devices (most notably the iWatch and Google Glass). In order to compensate for the continuous paradigm shifts occurring in the realms of technology, it is best to take advice from technology veteran and futurist guru Raymond Kurzweil:
“I’m an inventor. I became interested in long-term trends because an invention has to make sense in the world in which it is finished, not the world in which it is started.”
His approach can best be understood through a viewing of Transcendent Man. By anticipating the trends in technology, brands can best compensate for obsolescence down the road by creating product ideas beyond their technological capabilities. When it comes to software applications especially, new design as well as new features are emerging by lunchtime. It is a difficult challenge to avoid tech obsolescence and it requires an entirely different, almost philosophical, type of thinking.
When it comes down to it, hugely successful companies such as Kodak and Polaroid for instance, had all the resources in the world to create something along the lines of Instagram, but why did they not follow through? Also consider Steve Jobs’ envisioning of the iPad back in 1983, what is the key differentiator that prevents a brand and their products from becoming obsolete?
After boiling the issue down and focusing on Kurzweil’s philosophy, the common differentiation has to be culture. The culture of a company such as Facebook and Apple compared to that of MySpace and even Microsoft is glaringly obvious. One CEO went to venture capital meetings in pajamas, another left Atari for a vision journey in India, while the guys on the other side of the aisle remained content with their immediate success.
In regards to the attitude and vision of the founders and CEOs that run such companies, culture means everything. And it is fair to say that the construction of culture within an enterprise rests at the feet of its founder.