Monday, June 16, 2014

Did Innovation Kill Wow!

Mont Saint Michel
When was the last time you said “wow?”  Had to think about it didn’t you.

I often ask this question to audiences – and a strange thing is happening.  Fewer and fewer people have a good answer.  In fact, there is a demarcation by age.  Experienced people enjoy the question and have fun with it; the younger crowd looks around quizzically or takes a brief time out to peak at their phone.

What’s going on here?  Well I’m not sure but I have an idea.  I think we have become so inundated with amazing innovations that we have lost the ability to be wowed.  Let me explain.

Not too long ago I was in the Customer Loyalty business.  As consultants our aiming point was to get customers to say: “wow!”  We believed this correlated to loyalty.  Not anymore.  Wow is simply the expected norm in our culture of constant stimulation and immediate gratification.

I think this has been caused by our quest for Innovation facilitated by the Internet.  We are all working from the same database of winners as selected by the Internet.  The Internet has narrowed our base for Innovation, not widened it.  In addition, the Internet alerts us of Ideas and Innovations in the pipeline.  Who is surprised that Google is working on driverless cars?

Is this a tragedy?  Should we stop Innovating?  Of course not!  I still like the wow I get from my new car because I never have to take the key out of my pocket.  But a car key in your pocket will never wow my grand daughter.  She doesn’t even relate to phones; here preferred style is video chat.

I think that’s the sadness of our hyper-innovation society.  We’re losing our ability to be excited.  But wait, maybe there’s an answer.  Maybe we need to start spending time with the younger people in the audience to show them how to access ideas at the source rather than through RSS feeds.  Maybe it’s time to spend time in nature and museums to see what is truly remarkable.  And maybe it’s time to stand in awe of some of the great achievement of humans – I just visited Le Mont Saint Michel where no one was looking at their smartphone.

Maybe there is an answer in “retro.”  Maybe returning to diversity in experience and thought will bring us some new ideas.  Ones that will make us go WOW!

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