It’s already the middle of January.
How are your 2018 tech-related resolutions going?
• What have you done to leverage artificial intelligence?
• How is blockchain removing friction from your transactions?
• Has your reality been augmented?
• Doubled your money in Bitcoin?
Not so good? Join the club.
Plain old unaugmented reality
The buzzwords—AI, blockchain, Bitcoin, augmented reality, and many others—cram headlines and lead broadcasts. This flood of prose and video can leave the average business person with a deep inferiority complex. If the latest tech advances aren’t driving your business (and personal) strategies, you’ve missed the boat, right?
The media, with its maniacal drive to oversimplify complex topics, does a terrible job covering many things, with tech at the top of the pile.
But these media-generated tech crazes are dangerous. That’s because, feeling the pressure be innovative and competitive, CEOs and boards may insist their companies jump on a bandwagon that’s not going anywhere—or at least anywhere your business needs to go.
Take the list above. It’s pretty clear that both artificial intelligence and blockchain are here to stay and, in some form, will transform businesses, depending on the business.
The other two? Augmented reality and Bitcoin? The picture isn’t so definite.
It seems inevitable there will be a Bitcoin crash. Though cryptocurrency will persist, which one(s) is anyone’s guess.
Augmented reality will likely continue to play an important role in training and in gaming. But it’s not at all probable the average person will be walking around inside a constantly annotated visual space.
Remember Google Glass?
Yeah, I almost forgot about it myself.
Leading edges on the cusp of nowhere
Here’s a cautionary tale. Take a look at some of the biggest flops of 2017:
• Used car startup Beepi (yes, you read that right) raised $149M, was valued at half a billion, then failed.
• Live streaming auction enterprise Auctionata went belly up after securing $96 million from investors in six financing rounds.
• HomeHero, which planned to connect homecare workers with families, ignominiously announced its closure on blog site Medium after raising $23 million.
The fact is, in the fog of the incessant tech frenzy, it’s hard to see what’s actually a legitimate new idea.
Take the classic example of how, every now and then, a tech startup accidentally invents the city bus:
“Lyft Shuttle is the exciting new feature for people who don’t want to pay the full price for a taxi, or a rideshare. It’s a shuttle service, which users can book through their app, but only stops at pre-designated points along a set route.”
What boat do you think you are missing?
The impact for business of all this nonsense is serious.
Deluded by the misconception that unicorns are out there just waiting to be rounded up in some great cattle drive, managers can be tempted to neglect their core business to chase tech fantasies.
I recently suffered from this situation myself. I was informed— via text message—that the plug was being pulled on a startup data enterprise I’d been consulting for, which had tens of millions in backing.
I’m not special, by the way. Pick any tech consultant you know over 40, buy them a drink, then ask, “Ever been stiffed by a startup?” (Make sure to cancel any further evening plans.)
The rule for businesses is to avoid getting swept up in the madness. Remember, meaningful innovation rarely feels like hitting the ball out of the park. It emerges out of consistent effort and strategic pilot programs.