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Breaking Weekly Digital Gridlock #14: Evolutionary or Revolutionary

Weekly FinTech Tip: Knowing the Difference Between Evolutionary and Revolutionary Technologies is a Major Factor in the Success of Your Digital Transformation

Learning to identify revolutionary technologies versus evolutionary technologies will play a key role in the success of your digital transformation. In my career, I have found that technology usually comes in one of two flavors: evolutionary or revolutionary.

Evolution is, of course, gradual change. Something that takes a lot of time and technology usually means that someone has taken an idea and adapted it to work better, or they’ve taken an idea and figured out how to scale it.

Revolution occurs when technology fundamentally changes how people do business. Here’s some examples:

Alexa: Is it revolutionary or evolutionary?

It’s revolutionary because it’s brand new. It has changed how people do business, and it scales.

A lot of people will point to Apple and its iPhone as the revolution of smartphones, but let’s not forget that they have been around for a long time in the form of BlackBerrys. What Apple did was evolve the BlackBerry to what it should be – they scaled it.

Airbnb: revolutionary or evolutionary?

It’s revolutionary because it didn’t exist before. There was no way for you to go online and rent a bedroom in someone’s house, and they figured out how to scale it through trust. Who’s going to let a stranger stay in their house? Somehow, Air BnB B figured that out.

Uber: revolutionary or evolutionary?

Uber is revolutionary because, again, it didn’t exist before. They figured out that it would be easy to use your smartphone to order a taxi and solved the problem of payment. They solved the problem of security by showing you who the people are that are picking you up, and they created tons jobs for people the world over.

Whether they’re revolutionary or evolutionary, successful technology platforms will have two major attributes: utility and scale.

Utility is the key reason that a person or an organization will use this technology. Consider the utility of Uber. It allows you to see where your car is, how long it’s going to take to get there, what the license plate number is, what it looks like, and what the name of the driver is. That’s utility.

Scale is when you bring together tremendous quantities of consumers and producers and you create a marketplace. Again, consider Airbnb, an organization that brings producers (people who have room in their home or are not going to be in their home for a little while) with consumers (people who want to stay in these homes). That is scale. Scale is important because it implies that the system works. A system that can only support a couple hundred thousand people is not a platform.

All of these tips come from my book, Breaking Digital Gridlock, available on Amazon and anywhere books are sold, and if you like these FinTech minutes, check out my podcast, The BigCast.

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