◼️ Innovation Micro-interview #4 - John EGAN, Paris
A series of micro-interviews with people we work with. Partners in crime, current or former customers, all have a unique view on innovation and the current zeitgeist. Five questions on innovation, short answers. We might agree, we might disagree. No context, no comments.
1. How do you define innovation, and why is it important for you (personally, not for your professional activity)?
I define innovation as the measurable change in the rate of progress that occurs as the result of deliberate design or action. To that end, I recognise three distinct forms of Innovation: semantic, systematic and systemic. Where semantic innovation refers to change in the underlying processes of manufacture or distribution (e.g. JIT). Systematic innovation is the relatively linear, incremental shifts that occur over time as a result of new technologies (e.g. greater computation capacity). Systemic innovation is disruptive innovation that fundamentally alters the rate of progress and often makes what was the status quo partially or fully redundant. Examples include electricity, moving from the horse to the car, the vinyl record or cloud computing.
2. If we only consider “digital” what’s the biggest impact you witnessed directly these last years (remote working notwithstanding)?
We can never only consider digital in practice because there is an inseparable relationship between digital and the analogue world. Many traditionally analogue activities have now fully incorporated digital components and many exclusively digital activities now compete with analogue activities for the scarcest resource of all; attention. There are two major visible impacts that have impacted digital usage in recent years. The first is the impact that declining social mobility and higher costs of living has had on the emergence of digital opportunities. New digital and virtual economies have emerged to provide opportunity to those for whom the traditional economy was failing. The sharing economy, gig economy, crypto economy, influence economy and metaverse have all been driven by fundamental economic issues that have left people in need of subsistence and growth opportunities. The other major trend has been the gradual but inexorable emergence of the determined Internet. Internet companies make money of virality and consequently that's what they seek to enable. Whether it's the Netflix's top 10 or twitter's curated trends; Internet businesses want as many people to consume the same information at the same moment. They don't want users scattered amongst the longer tail of the informational universe. This is a far cry from earlier generations of the internet where companies like StumbleUpon, Digg and Reddit succeeded by making random information, epiphany and serendipitous discovery available to all.
3. What’s currently the hottest topic in your field that you believe might have a chance to really be transformative?
Stem cell therapies and innovation around regenerative medicine is on the cusp of changing humanity in profound ways.
4. In contrast, what's the most over-hyped topic and why?
The Metaverse. It may be inevitable but it's still poorly defined, poorly understood and the technologies needed to create a genuinely immersive, interactive internet are still a decade away.
5. What is the most surprising weak signal you have direct knowledge of that we all should be paying more attention to?
If social mobility doesn't improve in the western world we are likely to see substantive changes in all areas. The way technology is used. The way politics works. The way industry is regulated. The way families live and the way capitalism performs.