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This is one reason why people in the design team at HERE, among other tasks, look for “indicators of change”; we feel that cultivating an awareness of changes in society, economy, geopolitics, and technology helps us in evaluating and shaping innovative products and services.
While this is not a hard science, there are some tools and methods that can support it.
One is the adoption curve that Everett Rogers created in 1962 to map the diffusion of innovation.
With it you can easily understand if change is about to happen, if it’s looking like an anomaly, or if, rather, it’s becoming the way most people think and act.
It is very difficult, but nevertheless exciting, to answer whether innovation is pushed by customers and their values or if it is the result of technological improvements. Sometimes we forget that, while we think and develop new products, society is also evolving and this will influence customers’ needs and tastes.
Like no other time in history, in the past years, technology began a steep rise sometimes called “the third industrial revolution”. The digital transformation of the world started and invested many industries, arriving right now to finance, insurance and governmental portals. Meanwhile, our concepts of work, social relations, transportation are evolving fast.
Let me give you an example. A couple of years ago, Estonia introduced e-Residency, a "transnational digital identity available to anyone in the world interested in administering a location-independent business online. e-Residency additionally enables secure and convenient digital services that facilitate credibility and trust online."
Delocalisation and flexibility are attributes that have started to be assigned to workplaces and businesses. The end of the life-long job has been considered very dangerous from the perspective of our parents' generations but the so-called citizens of the world embrace the idea of multiple jobs, often on-the-go. They reject the idea that "you are your profession". Technology is supporting, if not pushing, for this new work society. Social networks for working are replacing emails and telepresence has made physicality almost an option.
Customer products like anti-theft backpacks, GPS trackers, remote controllers, make nomadic life light and fast.
The transportation of solitary individuals is becoming a challenging proposition for our over-crowded cities. However, the imminent arrival of autonomous vehicles will free humans from the duty to drive themselves and create time to work or enjoy the ride. Some organizations are even thinking about "commuting offices" that would come to you when you’re in need of a temporary workspace. This example is from IDEO.
Society, politics, technology are influencing each other in forming the future of the human race. Do individuals have a role in this scenario of driving forces?
In the words of Eric A. von Hippel, professor of technological innovation in the MIT Sloan School of Management:
"Free innovation involves innovations developed and given away by consumers as a ‘free good,’ with resulting improvements in social welfare.(...) Unlike producer innovation, free innovation does not require intellectual property rights to function. Indeed, from the perspective of participants, free innovation is fundamentally not about money – it is about human flourishing."