Technology Moves Too Fast to Care About

Ziba’s holiday gift to clients and friends is twelve thought pieces, with corresponding video summaries. These were only released to the public as each month of the year passed. I am Mr. July.

The video below provides off-the-cuff insight (read: I didn’t have time to prep any notes) on how the rate of change in technology excites us, but can also cause a myopic view and tech-led invention.

Today it is more important than ever to redouble our efforts on identifying and clarifying the context and purpose for which technology is being applied. Tech for tech’s sake is not just in danger of being a gimmick or missing the mark value wise, but can undermine the credibility of a fledgling technology, and stifle future developments.

It is important to shift our focus from the features and technology of something, towards the outcome and benefit that things provide. Service design seeks to remove steps, and one of them is often to create magical black boxes of technology: What do people care of how something happens compared to why they want something to happen?

Take the example of a car sharing scheme; there is the website and app, physical cars, member cards and scanners, databases of where cars are parked and when they are available, and human service staff. How technology enables these things is of less importance to us than the application and choreography of technology which provides us with the outcomes we want and the experiences we desire.

As those experiences and outcomes do not require the ownership of a car, but merely access to it, this poses great challenges for the automobile industry. Technology bells and whistles, painstakingly built for a wide spectrum of use cases, go unnoticed in a one hour trip to the grocery store. Availability and convenience trump brand loyalty or favourite models. Where the value is located has significantly shifted.

The relationship with the service providers (e.g. Zipcar, municipal services, the rental car companies scrambling to adjust to the new market) become critical. As the industry switches from an ownership model to subscription platforms, new criteria emerge; in particular longevity (the fleet lasts longer), reliability (lower maintenance costs and less down time of assets) and fuel economy (many services seek to remove as much fuss as possible, including keeping tanks topped up for you when possible). At least this is hopefully good news for the environment, with lower emissions and a disincentivisation of planned obsolescence.

The technology that is so important in our lives is increasingly hidden. It is the organization of the systems around people, digital and human service platforms, and principles of innovation and delivery that make service experiences and outcomes feel effortless, seamless and satisfying.