Yesterday, Facebook bought FriendFeed. To the Digitalls, this is a thing of hot debate and plentiful discussion. But to the Digicools and Digitools, they will have read to this point and still understand nothing I’ve said because they have no idea what FriendFeed is, nor know why it even matters that Facebook has acquired them. But bear with me just a while…
Right now, famous technology evangelist Robert Scoble is talking through all the nuances and possible outcomes of this deal. The post is worth a read. For those of you who don’t know, Scoble made FriendFeed popular among the geeks, and has promoted it tirelessly and ceaselessly, whilst spending pretty much most of his working days on there for most of this year. Now, it appears, all those thousands of hours, all those ideas, all the marketing, all the effort of his life for the past year or so, will fade into time as FriendFeed gets sucked into Facebook.
The thing I find funny about all these Digeratti, as I call them – the top innovators and Digitall elite – is that they make so much noise about every big and every little thing. Reading Scoble’s article, many things that he is now saying he simply wasn’t saying early this year. One minute they are all expending energy on one thing, and now it is being expended on another. Blogging is dead, they cry, meanwhile, the mass market hardly knows they were ever alive. So, while I was reading Scoble’se article yesterday, I kept asking myself – “Does the mass market care? Does it even matter to the mass market? Will history change for it?” Because it certainly appears that all that effort is, well, much ado about nothing.
So it appears.
Fast forward a year or so and see the then half a billion Facebook users – the Digicools and Digitools of the mass market – now grappling with more changes and updates to Facebook. See 6 months after that, when all the ‘I hate the new, new Facebook’ pages have died down, and this mass market will be using Facebook in new ways with new technologies, based on what the Digitall have been using for years prior. And all that effort from all those FriendFeed users and engineers finds its place – it was thinking the way forward into the future.
Innovation – creating new ways to do things – is all about thinking way ahead of your time, and way ahead of the mass market.
Perhaps you’ve been wondering what that picture of a chair above is meant to be doing. That, my friends, is known as the ‘Wassily’, a chair designed by Marcel Breuer for Wassily Kandinksy at the Bauhaus. I have one in my living room. Want to know when he designed it? 1925. That’s 84 years ago. Can you imagine how innovative his thinking was to create something that is beyond even contemporary design? 84 years ago people were sitting on wooden chairs but Marcel was a thinking person who saw beyond even the imaginable future.
That’s the thing about innovation – it takes place years, and even decades before it makes sense.
Before it makes sense. Ah, there’s the rub.
There’s something that I do that, to some, doesn’t quite make sense. I run an Experience Agency. I talk about compelling experiences. But it’s ahead of where the mass market is right now. And when you’re ahead, what do you attract? Criticism. Misunderstanding. Just plain mockery. And you experience fear. You make mistakes. At times, you even doubt whether you’re even on to something at all. But then you reach down to the innovator’s compass inside of you. Your gut. And you know. You know that, given 5 years, it’ll be all the more relevant. Make it 10, and they’ll all be kicking themselves that they weren’t listening. Give it 20, and it’s a non issue.
Know that your innovation and your thinking is not much ado about nothing – but just like Scoble and FriendFeed – it’s much ado about something, the reward just comes later.
The decision you have, then, is to continue to innovate or imitate. Do the daring. Do something new, or line up and be the next cheap copy of a great original. But if you are doing something new, then beware that all the effort you put in will not have immediate return on investment. Understand that people will look at you and think what I was thinking about Scoble – “Will it work?” “Does it matter?” “Who even cares?” My recommendation, if you do innovate, is to buy yourself a Wassily chair. And every night when you sit in it and reflect and think things through, realise you are sitting in someone else’s innovation, and one day, others will sit in yours.
So here’s to all the innovators in the crowd. We are the future. My chair tells me so.