It’s enticing to try to figure out what the next big thing will be — The next Twitter, the next LinkedIn and even better, the next Whatsapp — and great marketers constantly tread the fine line between where our customers are today and where they will be tomorrow. But more often than not we aim for the low hanging improvements so to speak — the better click-through rates, the new apps where our customers hang out, the better analytics tool.
But is that the best target to aim for?
If we truly are in the middle of a revolution the scale of the industrial ones, then asking what the next Twitter will look like makes as much sense as asking what the next Model T would look like. It’s exciting, yes, but barely scratches the surface of what it all means.
Nick Denton, founder of Gawker puts it this way:
PLAYBOY: What will be the life-changing or society-changing technologies that we’re just starting to see now?
DENTON: The internet is it for this century, maybe the next one too. People ask what comes next too quickly. To the extent there is some kind of message in the valuation that the market has given Twitter, it is that communication, information and media are at the heart of this phase, this cycle, and it’s a long, long cycle that could last 50 or 100 years. When you have an innovation as profound as the networking of sentient beings.… Those delusional futurists who talked about Gaia, the planetwide intelligence? They were spot-on. It’s totally happening, and everything else comes out of that.
PLAYBOY: By “everything else,” do you mean wearable computing, self-driving cars and that stuff?
DENTON: Who gives a fuck about wearable computing? That’s just a detail. I mean improvement in biotech, curing cancer, efficient travel into orbit, better device storage, solving carbon emissions. All these other problems will be solved by the internet by harnessing the collective intelligence. Everything else will fall out with that.
PLAYBOY: That definitely sounds utopian. To be clear, you just said the internet is going to solve global warming, correct?
DENTON: Yeah. Intelligence connected to human beings will achieve rates of technological progress that would have been impossible in previous eras. Of course we’ll solve problems more quickly.
The internet and World Wide Web were created to share information faster and more efficiently. Thinking about optimized click-through rates seems trivial compared to thinking about what this collective intelligence will do to the way we live and how are customers will live. As technology knows more about what we need, when we need it and becomes a tool that’s better at predicting, sharing and generally making us more efficient, think at what that means for you, as an employee, customer, marketer and person.
Optimizing views and new tools are, as Nick puts it, ongoing evolutions. If the internet is the big innovation we have for the next century or two, the true magic can only really happen if you’re ready to tread that line between what is and what can be; between ongoing evolutions and what ” intelligence connected to human beings” will lead us.
There’s a tension at that line that can only lead to greatness.