By Rex Hammock
Founder and CEO

Earlier this week, I spent several hours in one-on-one discussions with engineers and product managers who head up various research and development innovations for Intuit. Their work covers all of the current buzzwords: machine learning, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, big data, speech recognition, blockchain technology and more.

In some cases, the work of these talented experts is already making its way into the platforms on which millions of individuals and small businesses manage their finances (e.g., Mint, TurboTax, QuickBooks, etc.). However, most of their work is about understanding the impact of next-generation technology on their future customers.

I was impressed with the brilliance and creativity of these talented people. I was equally impressed with Intuit’s decision to devote as much research to understanding the context of their customers as the features of their products.

But at times, what I was hearing seemed to be an echo of the past. So I asked an engineer, “What makes ‘machine learning’ different than the data mining of a decade ago? Why is virtual reality such a big deal when authors like William Gibson or theorists like Jaron Lanier were describing everything we’re doing today 30 years ago?

His simple yet brilliant answer: “Because, finally, we can do those things.”

Factors such as Moore’s Law have made the power of computing more powerful and less expensive to the point where science fiction is now science fact.

Lessons for marketers

It’s often easy to predict the future of technology, including the type of technology that is currently changing the practice and possibilities of marketing. But the speed of adoption is impossible to predict. Quite often, a concept or idea gets ahead of the available technology. And other times, technology gets ahead of the needs or cultural context of its intended users. Timing is everything.

Just because you can do something with a new communications platform or channel doesn’t mean you should. So don’t always obsess over the technology of the moment. Rather, obsess over—and solve—the problems your customers have today and tomorrow.


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