Innovation Infertility

The 7 Skinny Cows

Many of you may have probably the seen the movie, “Children of Men,”–it is themed around a time in the future when women are infertile (because of pathology, pollution, drugs, or whatever) and the world is in chaos–for what is life without children to carry on?

Fortunately, in the movie, after 18 years, one woman does get pregnant and bears a child and there is hope in the scientific community for a resurgence of humankind.

Unfortunately, we are now in a similar period of technology, where big innovation of yesterday has come grinding to a miserable saunter.

When the biggest news leaking out of superstar innovator, Apple is the potential for an iWatch–uh, not exactly earth shattering, we know we are in innovator’s hell!

And vendors from Apple to Samsung and Sony trying to come out with some sort of voice activated television–again, who doesn’t hate the TV clicker, but really this is not going to revolutionize our entertainment center days.

With hundreds of thousands of apps available for everything from social networking, eCommerce, gaming, and more, it seems like there are more copycat apps then anything else coming out these days–where’s the real wow factor?

Microsoft can’t find it’s way in a mobile world, the mighty Intel has been supplanted by ARM with mobile chips, Marissa Mayer is trying to figure out how to remake the jump for joy, Yahoo, relevant again, as are the Vanderhook brothers and Justin Timberlake trying to do for MySpace.

With the overemphasis on the form factor making bigger and smaller sizes and shapes for computing devices, we seesaw between iPod Classics and Nanos and between iPads and Minis. But where are the great functional enhancements? Yeah, ask Siri.

Similarly in computing architecture, we have latched unto cloud computing as the next great savior of IT-mankind, ignoring the repackaging again of the mainframe into a cool new computing model again, and relegating the prior go-to architecture of distributed computing as the evil twin. Sure, we can save some bucks until the pendulum swings back toward more decentralization and agility again.

In social computing, with Facebook what can you say–it’s got a billion users, but virtually not a single one would pay a dime to use it. If not for marketers scooping up our personal information online and advertisers annoying us with their flashing and protruding pop-ups, we continue to trade privacy for connectedness, until we lose too much of ourselves to identity thieves and snooping sources, and we fall back clamoring for more protection.

In security, we are getting clobbered by cyber intrusions, cyber espionage, and cyber attacks–everyday! We can’t seem to figure out the rules of cyberspace or how to protect ourselves in it. We can’t even find enough qualified people to fight the cyber fight.

I was surprised that even magazine, Fast Company, which prides itself on finding the next great innovation out there, states this month (April 2013), “Growing uncertainty in tech is creating chaos for startups, consumers, and investors…nobody has a non-obvious new social business model that can scale.”

As in the movie, Children of Men, we are suffering from an infertility of innovation–whether from burnout, a focus on short-term profit instead of long-term R&D investments, declining scores in STEM, or a lack of leadership–we are waiting for the next pregnancy so we can have hope again, but are disappointed that so many are false positives or overhyped prophets.

One of the things, I am most excited about is Google Glass and their concept of augmented reality, but the glasses are geeky and will need to be package in a lot more eloquent solution to really be practical in our futures.

The next great thing will come–life is a great cycle–but as in the Bible with 7 fat cows and 7 skinny cows, leading to the great famine in Egypt, we are now seeing lots of skinny cows walking around and it is darn scary. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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