How to harness technology to create value in totally new ways?
Google's Grand Plan for Titan Aerospace [Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=31PW-Ep-Ykc]
This snippet of 20th century history never fails to amaze me: In the 1960s, at the height of the Cold War, several military-industrial elites got together to propose creating a communications network that could work in the event of a nuclear war. Their top-secret plan was to design a complex web of communications lines that would allow messages to reach the intended recipient even if a portion of the network was knocked out of commission by a war. Various governments developed this byzantine network and there it stood by for decades, ready for armies and political leaders who might need to use it. They never did. By the 1980s, university professors began using it to send each other messages and trade research.
That Cold War relic was the Internet.
Soon more than just colonels and professors would use it. A young generation of scientists and computer aficionados would unlock its commercial potential. By doing so they helped create the Information Age. Many people are surprised that the Internet sat around as a little-used tool of a bygone era until innovators began harnessing the technology to create value in completely new ways. Its story serves as a lesson as to what can happen when we are unafraid to look at technology from new and untested perspectives, especially when monetization is a possibility.
Consider how the social network Facebook is positioning itself for the next decade - not as merely a place to share photos and funny remarks but as a bank. Recently, the Financial Times reported that Facebook is close to obtaining approval that would allow its users to store money on the network as well as to exchange funds with other members. The company is ingeniously commercializing digital friendship. Who needs the central banks of nations when private enterprise can establish safe, closed networks by which to engage in commerce and trade?
Another tech giant, Google, recently acquired a company called Titan Aerospace. Why would a search engine want to be airborne? Well, if the company harnesses unmanned, solar-powered drone technology, it could help pump more life into Google Maps. But think of how Google might harness this technology to blaze a new trail, such as putting devices high into the earth's atmosphere in order to beam Internet signals to virtually anywhere in the world. A Google spokesman even told a publication that the technology might be harnessed to address environmental issues such as deforestation. A search engine entering the timber industry - who would have thought?
Of course, the act of profitably harnessing technology in new ways doesn't necessarily have to be cross industry. Just think about the science behind genetically modified foods. It arose as a way of more profitably utilizing agricultural land that is becoming scarcer by the decade. But now the technology of genetically modified foods has taken on a new relevance. With a global population boom underway and with potentially devastating possibilities, 100-year storms occurring every one or two years, biotech crops can help sustain the populations of large nations. When people are well fed, it means more ability for them to concentrate on improving their economies through hard work and innovation of their own. Talk about a seed taking root and creating new possibilities!
How can I use 'technology' as a means of helping customers achieve the outcomes they desire - to make the world even a wee bit better - now that's a question worth some deliberation I'd think.