When Innovation Sucks


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Let’s talk about airport body scanners.

This is amazing technology – a non-invasive (physically) way to tell if an air passenger is packing a weapon. So why, then, do the devices have so many detractors, and so few defenders?

All innovation includes a cost. It might be a monetary cost, and it might be the cost of learning new habits, systems, ways of thinking. If the value outweighs the cost, we adopt the innovation. For my company, moving from Outlook to Google Apps was worth re-thinking how to sort and file email.

But for body scanners, the passengers have spoken: the cost is greater than the perceived value.

True innovations have a positive “net value” for consumers, and this one doesn’t. It’s being forced on us. If we saw the value, we’d embrace it. But it appears that, for a great many people, the cost of regular invasions of privacy – both the scanner and the alternative patdown – are higher than the perceived chances of encountering an inflight bomb.

I’ve written before about the difference between invention and innovation. An invention is a new product. An innovation is something that creates new value for people. Have we seen this before? Sure. The interactive voice menus you get when you call just about any company. Who benefits from them? Only the company that fired the receptionist. Few customers would herald these systems as creating new value for them.

Voice menus didn’t cause a revolt, however – the stakes were too low. But foist a high-cost “innovation” on masses of people, without enough perceived value, and get ready to encounter naked aggression.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Thompson Morrison
Thompson Morrison has spent the last couple of decades figuring out how companies can listen better. Before co-founding FUSE, Mr. Morrison was Managing Director of AccessMedia International (AP), a consulting firm that provides strategic market analysis for the IT industry. His clients included Hewlett-Packard, Compaq, IBM, and Vignette.


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