The loss of Invention

19th September 2015

Andy Erskine

The world that we live in is focussed on driving efficiency, improvement and value from almost everything that we touch, making computers faster and faster, digitising information at a pace beyond belief, creating “big data” systems that allow companies to analyse and find patterns in data that might not otherwise be discovered, we build computers that replace human interaction and have even replaced humans from conversations replacing them with complex algorithms that recognise patterns in speech to provide intelligent answers to the questions that we pose...

 

In the built environment we have removed engineers who used to spend time in plant rooms, listening for a change in noise, feeling for vibration and observing leaks with complicated Building Management Systems that through condition based monitoring tools and sensors, tell you the same thing that the competent engineer would have already known.

 

The list of things that we have improved, shaped and developed is almost endless yet we continue to drive the limits of technology to improve things that we already have. We are not creating anything new though.

 

In our pursuit of technological improvement we have somewhere lost focus on invention, losing sight of the necessity to create something that is truly disruptive, new and different. Something that does something we haven’t even thought of yet.

 

Miniaturising your phone and combining it with your computer is without a doubt a technical masterpiece, as is the ability to monitor and control complex systems (or your TiVo Box) from the other side of the planet however these are an extension or development of existing technology, processes and systems. This is simply making something that we already do better.

 

Where is the next invention of the wheel, electricity or of the internet coming from?

 

This same scenario is sadly reflected in the services industry with standardisation becoming the norm to drive efficiency in the delivery model, creating uniformity that can be measured, rationalised and repeated on an ever increasing scale to drive down costs.

For service providers, the lack of invention is worrying as the benefits of the efforts made to standardise and drive efficiency are repeated by your competitors with renewed vigour to try and claw some level of commercial advantage.

 

For the services industry, this lack of invention creates a situation where the industry is locked into improving, rationalising and reducing the cost of existing technology. This is simply spinning the wheel faster and everyone is doing it.

 

We need to use our imaginations, challenge established thought processes and look beyond what we are doing now, only then will we start to invent new ways of working, create new tools and systems and do more than simply spin the hamster wheel faster and faster.

 

 

 

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