No new typewriters will be produced in 2012. This may seem no surprise to most, except that this will be the first year with no new typewriters since the machine was invented. The last production line closed down just this past year: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1380383/Worlds-typewriter-factory-ends-production-Godrej-Boyce-closes-doors.html
On the one hand, this shows quite poignantly why innovation is important. All technology has a shelf life, whether it ends outright or becomes a commodity. On the other hand, it shows that destructive innovation is not something that happens in a flash. It takes a long time for some technology to meet an end.
While the fate of the typewriter may have been apparent for some time, other technologies out there have more obscured and ambiguous futures. Computer storage faces the cloud. Tablets, e-readers, phones, computers, gaming devices, and televisions are constantly stepping on each other’s toes. Even business models, like just about anything in media, seem a bit up in the air.
So, how do you know if your product is a typewriter? Do you have a plan?
Each situation is different, but I can share how some of our clients have gone about managing for the uncertainty of the future:
The problem with all of these approaches is that they are susceptible to contamination and every form of cognitive bias when you carry out the footwork yourself. The natural momentum of strategy, especially successful strategy, can incline you against destructive or radical innovation. Your momentum is one competitive advantage of your new-to-the-market competitor, who arrives unencumbered by success. For the most honest answers to your questions about the future, ask for input from the outside. Bring customers, collaborators, and experts into the process and, if you have the budget, add in professional skill sets like ethnographers and strategy analysts. Use all that outside input to challenge your own view of the future, and build a more resilient strategy from the effort.
No typewriters were harmed in the making of this article.
ipCapital Group, Inc. (ipCG) specializes in the strategic use and management of innovation and intellectual property. If you'd like to learn more about our approach to technology forecasting and scenario planning, contact Ben Little at 802-859-7800 x256 or firstname.lastname@example.org. We can recommend some good ethnographers too.