Be patient with true innovation

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Global Apple Card in the works, says Tim Cook
Illustrative photo.
Image Credit: Pixabay

How many times have you been warned about the dangers of moving too slow in the world of business? If you want to stay ahead and stave off the competition, you need to act fast — or so we’re told.

So ingrained has that idea become in our psyche, we have grown impatient. We have come to expect rapid-fire reactions in almost every area of life, not least when it comes to the technology and science that we rely upon in our daily lives. The trouble with that is that speed and innovation rarely go together.

In fact, from the point of invention to the point of commercialisation, true innovation can take decades — 30 years as a rule of thumb. Think about it. In the early 1800s, Thomas Edison introduced electricity to the world, but it wasn’t until the 1920s that electrification really started to enter homes and businesses, and make a mark on the economy.

The change from the dial phone to the push button phone in the Alexander Graham Bell era was also incremental, as was the introduction of Penicillin. Alexander Fleming discovered the medicine in 1928, but it wasn’t until 1945 that it became commercially available.

Then, of course, we have Apple. The launch of the Macintosh computer in 1984 revolutionised technology and changed the way we work, but it didn’t happen overnight. The roots of the Apple Mac can be traced all the way back to 1968 when American engineer and inventor, Douglas Engelbart, presented “The Mother of All Demos” — a landmark tech and computer demonstration that influenced Apple (and Microsoft) in the years that followed.

For me, the case of Apple is particularly pertinent right now. In fact, I feel the need to jump to their defence.

Last month the tech giant launched the iPhone 11, which by all accounts is largely the same as the iPhone X, released less than two years earlier. Now, I have no problem with that. After all, Apple has not attempted to present its latest offering as a revolutionary new phone, nor has it claimed that it delivers a drastically different user experience to its predecessor.

What irks me is that people continue to moan about Apple’s lack of innovation with the iPhone 11 — yet continue to buy it all the same.

Here’s the thing: Revolution isn’t found in the modifications of existing products. Sure Apple modifies and improves the iPhone periodically because the product is wildly popular, and we buy it — apparently, whether we like it or not. But we shouldn’t expect it to be revolutionary.

In any case, Apple can be forgiven. OK, so the latest iPhone may not be as exciting as some of the earlier models, but the brains at Apple are busy with an altogether different innovation. As we speak, they are revolutionising another area of life that is arguably as fundamental and inescapable as communication: that is, the way we pay.

I recently got an Apple Card and, frankly, it surprised me. What’s ironic to me, is that I’ve only had it for about six weeks and I can’t even remember how I applied for it (though it turns out you can apply for one via the iPhone’s Wallet app). It feels like the card, which has been developed by the formidable duo that is Apple and Goldman Sachs, seamlessly walked right into my life.

In my opinion, it is no exaggeration to say that it will change the way we pay and transform the whole payment environment. Already, the card offers same-day cash back of real amounts and charges no fees. But who knows what else could be added over time?

And “over time” are the operative words. I don’t know how long it took Apple and its partners to come up with the idea, the technology and the supporting services behind their disruptive credit card, but it took no time to integrate into my life.

Just for once, slow down. Give innovation a chance.

Tommy Weir is CEO of enaible: AI-powered Leadership and author of “Leadership Dubai Style”. Contact him at tsw@tommyweir.com.

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