Have you ever seen something or developed something that you thought was amazing but it flopped? Have you ever seen something that you were absolutely convinced was the best but it disappeared without a trace? Perhaps you are the inventor and the new technology idea failed to grab the imagination of the board. In order to maintain and improve economic competitiveness, governments often encourage innovation. Research and Development (R&D) grants, tax credits and incubators all hope to find the next barnstorming idea. So, read on as we consider launching new technologies and how neuroscience reduces risk.
New technology ideas
Technology and software platforms are growing apace. Various estimates put the CAGR of the software industry at over 7% for the next 4 years. Other estimates put technology industry growth at 4% CAGR. It is certainly a driver of economic growth.
According to the OECD, the UK spent around £25bn[i] on business enterprise R&D in 2018, of which nearly 40% was in manufacturing. All however, is not rosy. As far back as 2006, the FT suggested that R&D expenditure may be a waste of money with little relationship to financial performance. So, why doesn’t every idea and innovation result in greater financial benefit? Why doesn’t every new technology or software go on to find success?
Launching new technologies comes with risk
When launching a new technology or software, there is clearly risk attached. In order to market and sell the product, a significant investment in production capacity, marketing and sales may be required. What if you are the manufacturer and selling it through other organisations? Crucially, unless commissioned to solve a problem, we don’t know if someone will buy the technology.
Additionally, not all technologies and software receive the response from the customer that we expect. From augmented reality (AR) to the metaverse, from artificial intelligence (AI) to robotics, not all will be accepted by human users. If we take virtual reality (VR), 3DTV or folding screens, it all depends on whether the user feels good about using them. How many times have we heard about the disorientating effects of AR, VR, 3D, 4DX etc? How did the creators not realise that these technologies would have this response?
Launch a new technology with less risk
One of the amazing opportunities of neuroscientific studies is to predict or measure human response to stimuli. Since we express the majority of our emotions physiologically, we can see and interpret our emotional responses. It also isn’t exclusively related to visual technologies.
Consider the recent reports on the relatively unregulated metaverse. Some of the world’s biggest software brands are ‘building’ infrastructure in this virtual world. However, it appears to be rife with unsavoury characters and shocking levels of sexual harassment[ii]. Microsoft was mentioned with their social VR platform attracting complaints from women receiving inappropriate comments[iii].
Furthermore, some new technologies with a single purpose are abused for ‘unforeseen’ purposes. Apple’s AirTags are a simple invention meant to enable users to locate lost items. People attach these small, round tags to keys, bags and other personal belongings. Unfortunately, some bright sparks have worked out that they are small enough to be concealed and used to stalk people[iv]. The result is that one of the largest companies in the world is creating a product that enables stalking. Should they have known prior to launch?
Are people ready for your new technology?
Horror stories aside, there is real scope for neuroscience to help with the assurance of new technology launches. That is, assurance in terms of whether people will be comfortable with the technology and in terms of potential misuse. For example, do we think that older users will be comfortable using AR to see what their friends bought in a shop? Do we think that younger users will spend a substantial amount of their time in the metaverse as an avatar? Are we also happy to know what our friends bought and how many likes they received?
There is also the possibility that your original purpose for the invention is not the most appropriate use. For example, if we look at Spot, the ‘robot dog’ created by Boston Dynamics, it was originally intended to operate in inhospitable surroundings. It has since been acquired by Hyundai and used to enhance factory safety, which is adjacent to the original purpose. Sometimes, taking the time to explore where the opportunities are can pay dividends.
Launching new technologies into new markets
To further complicate matters (and we do prefer to simplify things), some companies develop new products for multiple markets. Consider that the idea itself may not be something that generates a positive emotional response, so how will different cultures react to the new invention? Given the substantial investment in R&D to develop technologies, some of which will not see the light of day, how about tailoring the idea to different cultures or customer profiles?
Yes, traditional customer research helps. If you are purely seeking information, such as trying to figure out where an opportunity might be, consider a survey. Alternatively, if you are developing competing products, focus groups can help you to uncover where competitors may be failing to address customer issues. When coupled with neuroscientific techniques for surveys, testing, online studies and analysis, we have a lower bias approach. Crucially, this means more accurate identification of opportunities and return on investment. If the emotional response and user experience is neuroscientifically proven to be better than competitors, this is a good indicator of success.
Where to gain support when launching new technologies
Think Beyond is a management consultancy offering research, planning, change and enable services. We have a steadfast belief in the power of research to find the answers you need and to study how people respond. Whether you are engaging in strategic planning, competitive analysis, market profiling, R&D or marketing, research is the foundation. We have standard approaches and also tailor studies and experiments to your needs. In summary, make sure that your research partner supports your strategic choices.
If you would like to know more, simply call us on 01565 632206.
Finally, if you found this article interesting, check out some of our other research articles.