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When Will We Stop Talking About The Technology?

by David Brock on April 29th, 2014

It seems virtually every discussion I get into about advances in sales, marketing, or business eventually gets to technology.  I guess it’s sexy and cool to talk about neat technologies and other things we leverage.  It’s cool to show mobile devices, display screens, wearables, and other sorts of things.  They are things we can embrace and start to use, then subsequently blame, when they don’t produce results.  Or we can move technology to technology, always claiming, “just wait, this one is it.”

Don’t get me wrong, I’m really a geek/nerd.  I’m an early adopter of virtually every new technologies.  I have closets filled with retired devices, cables, software, and all sorts of other things.  I have a clutter of apps downloaded, used a few times then abandoned.  I also find technology very useful and extends my ability to accomplish things.

But shouldn’t we really be talking about Innovation in selling, marketing, or business.

Too often, we think Innovation and Technology go hand in hand.   I try to get into conversations about Innovation with people, then quickly find myself in a discussion about a cool new tool, app, or software package.

Innovation is not constrained by technology.  Innovation looks far beyond the technology.  Innovation can be in business models, business process, in human engagement. There are many innovations we confuse with being “technology innovation,” where they are really innovations of another kind.  Zappo’s innovation has little to do with on-line shopping technologies.  Instead, it’s innovation was in empowering it’s people to create awesome customer experiences.  Toyota’s manufacturing innovation (decades ago) was less in manufacturing technology, but in putting the power to stop the line in the hands of workers.  Nordstrom’s innovation in customer experience/service with unquestioned returns has made it a leader in retailing.  Ritz Carlton’s commitment to customer service and outstanding experience through the way they greet you at check-in, through empowering every employee to spend up to $2000 to help a guest solve an issue, Salesforce.com’s innovation was less one of technology, but more one of changing the traditional business model of software sales/implementation.  It moved software from a licensed product to software as a service.  Amazon is currently innovating it’s customer experience–focusing on same day delivery.  Yes, some of it is technology driven (there’s a drone coming to your neighborhood), but a lot of it is more traditional–where warehouses are located, contracting with the Postal Service for Sunday deliveries, assessing their own delivery networks.

Confusing Innovation and Technology limits us.  Technologies are easily copyable.  Business models, business process, and particularly human engagement are far more difficult to copy and get right.  Look at any of the examples cited above.  Their Innovations are very public, there’s nothing secret about them, yet there are few who have “copied them,” achieving the same levels of success.

Innovation is critical to every organization.  When we think of innovation, we should not confuse it with technology–though technology may be an enabler of the innovation.  We should really focus on business models, business process, and how people work together.

What innovations are you driving in your organization?

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9 Comments
  1. John Sterrett permalink

    Too true. My company started out 40 years ago as the only one with our technology. Over the years some left our company and started their own competing company. Same technology, but a different culture and a lack of innovation.

    So, they can buy market share by bombing price. They can use their knowledge of our customer base to try to grab a piece of our pie. But they cannot compete on innovation.

    We can do things with the product that none of them can do, are constantly developing new applications for the product and penetrating new markets, and find ways to empower our employees to ‘run their own business’. This is why we remain the industry leader in what we do.

  2. David Olson permalink

    I agree with your post David and Mr. Sterrett’s comments. I have just recently been assigned as Business Lead for a project at my work that came about because we need to make a technology spend but want to do it based on people and process needs to achieve our business goals.

    First things first!!!

    Trust that all is well with you – Dave

    • David, I’ve missed you!!!!! It’s wonderful to hear from you. As usual your comment is right on target. Technology needs to support and enable the underlying innovation in business model, process, and people engagement. With your insights, you’ll undoubtedly get the project to have a great impact! Thanks for commenting.

      • David Olson permalink

        Thanks David — I have another plan in the works that will turn things up for my Social Media presence. Stay Tuned!

  3. Great article – I especially love all of the examples. And I totally agree. I have worked in technology sales for around 30 years now (!) and it always amazes me that people still lead with technology in their conversations. What is important is how that technology can help your customers change something important to their business – their processes, workflows, etc.
    If technology doesn’t deliver value to the business in some way then it is just technology for technology sake, and that is just wasting your money!

    • Steve, we’re clearly in agreement. When you look at the current marketing and sales automation spaces, it’s amazing how much our attention is diverted to technology and how it’s diverted us from fundamentals. Thanks for taking the time to share your insights!

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