As a species, we are the product of evolution. It is fair to assume that we competed our way to the top. Since we are the result of natural selection, it would be safe to assume that other versions of our species did not make it. Slight variations that didn’t allow individuals a competitive edge simply fell by the wayside. The process of natural selection is logically and rationally sound. Meaning that it’s a solid framework within which to work. If it is good enough for Mother Nature, is should be good enough for us.
As it turns out, in many instances natural selection or variants there off are already at work in markets today. Companies create products, and consumers then buy those which they prefer, the others stop being manufactured. We call these Market Forces or Consumer Behaviour, but it all boils down to putting something out there and let the market decide, which in principal is similar to putting humans with horns out there and letting mother nature decide.
But can industry today afford to constantly create products which market forces may or may not drive to extinction. Say that your company is ready to create competition beating products. The question then simply becomes; In which direction do you steer the product developers?
Now I would venture that most of us, after thorough contemplation, would send them in exactly the same direction as everyone else. The data underscores this assumption. Humans are known for “herd mentality”, that is why marketing is so easy, right?
But let us assume for a second that you are done following. You are ready to blaze your own trail and you are going to be the one to give the herd its direction. How do you calculate your heading? Insight into the future would obviously help quite a bit!
There is admittedly a plethora of modern techniques for reaching a decision. There are also mathematical models for dealing with complexity, you could crowdsource the answer on Twitter or Facebook.
But lets face it, neither Apple nor General Electric turn to the web or even really mathematical models to decide on products or their design. So how does one go about figuring out what to make.
Lets try to answer this question at the Big Picture level by starting of with an example.
Imagine for a second that you are an entrepreneur and you are going to pitch to a venture capitalist for funding for a product you want to develop. Its just that you have no product in mind. Where do you start?
Lets quickly figure out something really cool, that would most likely sell pretty good?
First thing to consider: For whom do we create? In this case I am going to pick “HUMANS”.
Second thing to consider: What are current trends in devices for humans? Everything is becoming “SMART”.
Third thing to consider: What do humans need, love, hate, fear, adore? Humans fear “DEATH”.
Fourth thing to consider:Which industry saves humans from death? The Health / Fitness / Diet / Medical industries. I will chose “DIET”.
So we need to create a cool product for HUMANS, that is SMART, that through their DIET, will help them to ultimately cheat DEATH.
One would immediately start thinking, Mobile Device App. Photograph your food and it calculates the calories. What about something that can tell us something about our food? Maybe something like a App that could talk to the vendors purchasing system and tell us where the ingredients come from, etc?
Maybe a eating utensil that can figure out what were eating? Hmmm, smart forks and spoons? So how far fetched is that? Remember the Mars Rover? It has a mass spectrometer and a few other devices that could do chemical analysis. You could use Biochips, I mean, if they can detect bioterrorism agents, they could surely determine what were eating! So why not a fork that can analyse our food. It could detect hormones and pesticides. It could detect bacteria. It could count the number of fork full’s of pea’s you ate, and maybe, in combination with vendor information, determine exactly what your putting into your body.
Through IoT (Internet of Things) this could become part of your medical record, something medical aids could use to give you discounts, because you eat healthy. Big Data companies could subsidise these devices since the data collected could give a very good account of eating habits.
Gone are days of calorie counting and food diaries, enter the era of smart utensils that track what you eat!
Enough now of smart eating utensils. Lets talks about the underlying principles that got us to there.
Humans are afraid of dying. Avoiding death is deeply rooted within our personal psyche, the instinct for survival is hard coded into our beings. Modern humans don’t only have exceptional life expectancy compared with our ancestors, but we can also strive for quality of life in our later years that far exceeds anything previous generations could dream off. Technology is showing itself to be a powerful tool to help us navigate our bodies into productive and quality old age. Moreover, many culture’s view the body as a temple, and take great pains at not polluting their temple.
The decision for our product not only addresses the imperative’s of our instinct, but also addresses our intellectual and cultural needs.
We may not necessarily know exactly which products to produce, but when we can safely determine that if a product is addressing some basic human need, whether it be physical, intellectual or cultural, we can safely assume that people will show an interest in it.
The world of tomorrow will always be filled with artefacts that allow us greater amounts of control over our lives, and the items existing at the technological forefront while enabling us to achieve goals with greater ease, will most surely be sought after, no matter what the actually really are.
Returning to the original question about in which direction should you set sail. If you are moving into the direction where modern man’s technological creations intersect with the needs of his body, mind and soul, you will most likely be steering a safe course!
So go forth, plot a path in which human needs and wants intersect with the cutting edge that technology has to offer, and you will likely be going in the right direction!