Ok, we did it, my wife and I bought Apple Watches. As I said in the last post of this series, sometimes it’s hard to understand the significance of an innovation without personally experiencing it. After a couple weeks with the Apple Watch, I noticed that it adds another dimension to the technology equation. It is not “must have” technology, but it does address several issues:
- Notification stress: Low priority notifications can be turned off and a quick glance at your wrist shows important ones.
- Phone interactions: How many times a day do you pick up your phone to check it? Since important notifications can be viewed at a glance (literally), my phone now stays in my pocket. For people without pockets, it saves digging in a purse or bag to look at the phone or answer a call.
- The Health App: Though it has some problems, it works. I really do stand up at least 12 times a day now, even on super busy days. Being more aware of motion is one good first step to health.
Most technological developments are incremental: features added, bugs removed, etc., but once in awhile risky new ground needs to be broken. The Apple Watch is this type of development. It certainly has its problems. It is a bit slow, battery life is marginal, and there is a steep initial learning curve, but it became unobtrusive after a couple days. Now it feels weird to not wear it.
However, for niche technology companies, a failure in taking a big risk can jeopardize the entire company. One solution is by occasionally taking smaller, calculated risks. Instead of just updating an old product, use the opportunity to explore a new approach to solving a problem. Experimenting with Software as a Service (SaaS), Cloud Computing, distributed processing, and the Internet of Things (IoT) are all examples of calculated risks. Additional development resources can be allocated to the successful “experiments.”
A new idea is like a plant seedling, it needs to be nurtured and handled gently until it develops roots and can grow on its own. Organizationally, there are a variety of ways to achieve this such as protected development teams and “companies within companies.” Big examples include Amazon’s “Lab126” that develops the Kindle and Fire hardware or Microsoft Research that does research in areas ranging from Machine Learning to Computer Vision.
The next post in this series will dive a bit deeper into the organization issues involved in nurturing change. In the meantime, here is an unintended consequence of the Apple Watch, an epidemic of HWS (hairy wrist syndrome).