I open my Tech Trek Twitter and read a barrage of tweets bubbling with the latest tech gadgets on the market. A vacuum-extracting coffeemaker? It’s been done. An electronic, cord-less, hands-free breast pump with a downloadable app that tracks your milk production and lists seven different pumping “modes”? Yes, this exists. It’s very exciting to discuss about the future and the newest innovations that have massive potential to disrupt existing industries and our daily lives, making everything smarter and faster. What I want to emphasize today and continue this discussion further is something that has been sitting in my mind ever since the first class, which is: is innovation sometimes not a good thing? Is upgrading now worse than upgrading later? When is the right time to implement a new tech product or system?
Over the past summer, I had the opportunity to attend a program at Harvard Business School where I worked on cases using the case study method. One of the cases was called Bitfury: Blockchain for Government. This was a long, 25-page case with lots of contextual details, but it was essentially about whether the government of the Republic of Georgia, should adopt a blockchain registry system for its land tilting processes, and if so, when. The efficiency of the whole process for a citizen to would improve tremendously, up to 400 times faster, reducing the registration and verification time from 1-3 days to about 10 seconds and cutting operational costs by 90%. Bitfury, the blockchain infrastructure company involved pitched: trust in the government is low. The government lacks funds. The government also wants to grow their economies. Blockchain is cheap technology, it can move assets out of the black market, and increase transparency and efficiency.
However, the case is not so much about the splendors of blockchain and its mysterious and wonderous potential. It’s about preventing a scenario of “right tech, wrong time.” The government of Georgia was hesitant to partner with Bitfury on this initiative, raising a lot of skeptical doubts. How is the complexity of the technology going to affect its true efficiency? Will people be discouraged from learning it due to the notion of uber-complexity? What will be the adoption costs associated with moving a whole nation of people to an entirely different system?
The pace of adoption of new technology really depends on both the technology itself and the ecosystem around it. What I found really captivating to learn is the framework in assessing different technological products/innovations for market fit.
This chart outlines the relationship between technology and the surrounding ecosystem, with We tried to debate and assess where blockchain in government would fall in a certain quadrant. The professor who taught this case told me with studying technological transformation, you cannot focus on just the technology in itself, ecosystems are just as important, and the rate of adoption should be amongst the top factors to take into consideration. Sometimes strengthening incumbent technology may be the more appropriate decision given the situation at hand. Being in different quadrants (which also have a degree of subjectivity) Then again, there rises the question of, how will we know to a certain extent when the ripe time is to introduce a new technological product or implement a new innovation. What exactly would be the best metrics to make such an evaluation? I can think of consumer feedback but consumer opinions alone, although important to regard, are not adequate to provide the most accurate analysis in choosing whether to begin a tech revolution. A lot of different industries from retail to government are no stranger to the urgency of innovation, but nailing the correct timing is the true challenge at hand, a factor that can really influence the success of such innovation efforts.