“My Digital is Bigger Than Yours” and the Technology Pulp Fiction | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

Posted On November 4, 2015

It’s the middle of the week and despite all the caffeine-induced stimulation I am in a cynically contemplative mood.

Reason? The past 6 weeks have been spent attending analyst events and conferences, listening and debating with business leaders and thought leaders on what will make the global services industry click. There has been a flood of “paradigm-changing” buzzwords, new solutions on the horizon, and yes, the predictions that claim to change the world in the next 24-36 months. I’ll not go into the details but if you have managed to find your way to this blog, you probably have already heard these terms – Innovation, Robotics, Automation, Digital, and Internet of Things! (And are probably thinking – “here goes another blog on digital transformation. Yawn!”)

That “yawn” is a symptom of the problems facing the technology industry. Gone are the days when you would look at a new product or an interface and say – “Wow!” I think the last time I exclaimed wow was more than a decade ago when I first saw a GPS map and the smooth voiceover guiding me to my destination. Since then there indeed have been some “Aha” moments but nothing that made me fall off my chair. The reason probably is this – most of our attention has been on innovation rather than invention.

  • Innovation is putting together working concepts and turning them into industrialized mass adoption successes
  • Invention is creating a new concept altogether and make it work

Frankly, all the innovation that we talk about today is a mishmash of just three inventions – computing, internet, and devices. Robotics – check. Automation – check. Digital – check. Internet of things – check! True, we are working on miniaturizing, increasing processing speed, writing hugely complex analytics code, and building beautiful interfaces. Reality check – we are still just exploring the “art of the possible” with the Legos.

What is wrong with that? Absolutely nothing. Incremental invention (or innovation) is a great thing. My issue is with paradigms that are dime a dozen these days. Here is the problem – We are in the age of the “moolah.” Theoretical or conceptual innovation has lesser weight since anything that is not investor-funded and cannot be in hands 18 months down the line, is meh. And that is why the less than smart pursuit to reset and invent terminologies instead of true touch and feel invention. Due to lack of true innovation, buzzwords and bubbles are what keep investors excited and money mobile. And these buzzwords are finally leading to madness.

Each industry event I went to saw analysts and leaders beating each other up with their own definitions of what “Digital” meant – for some it was “business transformation using digital,” for some it was “SMAC,” for some it was “driving growth and efficiency using digital,” while some lazy ones were resigned to “anything that is not analog”! Frankly, this debate made me cringe. It is only when industries lack true innovation that they resort to chest thumping using buzzwords. Global automotive industry is a case in point. Till Elon Musk came along, it was all about lines and curves, three-year warranties, and miles per gallon.

Hence, while I take another sip of my café Americano, I hope a maverick comes along and says, it’s time for telepathic computing, time travel, and an invisibility cloak. Gulp!