The importance of communication in technological innovation
This is the 21st century. Computer technology is all around us, impacting our lives in more ways than we can imagine. From our work to our social life and from healthcare to entertainment, every aspect of our life is aided, amplified or automated by computers.
Computer technology has automated our homes. We have smart thermostats, smart washing machines and smart televisions that could be operated remotely with our smart phones for more convenience in our everyday lives.
Our lives are becoming increasingly virtual and predominantly take place in the cloud: we make friends on Facebook, spend time together in World of Warcraft end relationships on Twitter.
And we live to collect data: about how many steps we take per day, our health and our energy consumption, while at the same time more and more of our data is collected, mined and analyzed by governmental organisations and companies.
These technological innovations are changing our world rapidly, and it’s not that easy to keep up with all the changes. Especially since most advances are happening in the background, in nano-computers, cyberspace and advanced software like the complex algorithms that are used in the financial world. In a sense innovation has become invisible, which makes it even harder to understand.
It is not as if there is not a lot of communication about technological innovation. Although the purpose might have been to create understanding the abstract texts drenched with technical specs are not helpful at all. One of the reasons there is so much incomprehensible information is the fact that they are written by experts. When you deal with technology on a daily basis it is easy to overlook the fact that not everyone has the same background knowledge. The bigger the gap between the lingo used by the experts and the knowledge of ‘ordinary’ people, the bigger the miscommunication.
Innovation is not just a matter of inventing new things at the right time. Innovation is an inclusive process which stands or falls with the support of the crowd. When the public doesn’t understand what you are talking about, you will loose their support. Without the support of the public an innovation us useless.
What then, is the right way to convince the crowd?
Too much tech savvy content causes the majority of the public to zone out. On the other hand explaining everything in detail might come across as patronising and give the public the idea that they can’t think for themselves. Two opposites, same effect: disengagement.
They key for engaging communication about technological innovation is clarity. When you write about technology be clear about what the technology does and why it is beneficial for the public. Use ‘normal’ words and skip incomprehensible jargon. Apple didn’t use difficult words to sell the iPod. They just said “1000 songs in your pocket” which said it all. The public doesn’t want to understand the technical specs. They don’t even care how you were able to make it work. They only want to hear why it is good for them and what they can do with it.
The crowd loves Apple, not because they are dazzled by technical specs, but because they can understand a product that gives them what they want: 1000 songs in their pocket.
Understanding technology gives us the power to use it. But understanding how to communication about technological innovation work, that is the key to success.