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Innovation is about use, not about sales

Yesterday I thought the opening lesson at a Master on Forecasting, I am teaching technology forecast, at the Trento University. A point that I made, and I want to share with you here, is that innovation is not so much about "sales" it is about "use". Of course as an entrepreneur you are interested in sales, since that generates revenues, but the hallmark of innovation, at least this is what I claim, is USE.
I remember reading an interview to Steve Jobs, some ten years ago. He told the interviewer that Apple had launched the iPod and a few months later he was walking in New York and kept seeing people with the iconic white earbuds. At that point he realised that (in his words) "something was going on".
He had the reports showing that the iPod was selling well (in spite of the dire prediction of Lord Alan Sugar that declared in 2005 the iPod as a passing fad: "Next Christmas the iPod will be dead, finished, gone, kaput".
Indeed, if the iPod was just bought but not used it would have gone away, as it happened to many other products, including something like the Rubik cube that for a while sold millions of pieces. If people are not using something it will fade away replaced by another marketing gimmick.
You can tell the iPad is a success because people are using it continuously, same goes for the cell phone… or the car, of WhatsApp…  A corollary to this theorem is that you should strive to create something that is visible to others when somebody is using it. It is a very effective type of "word of mouth"!
My feeling is that researchers are often missing this truth: it is the use that makes an innovation. If they were paying more attention to this they would dedicate much more time to the design and usability.
This is true everywhere, obviously also at the EIT ICT Labs as well. Create for use, and sales will come!

About Roberto Saracco

Roberto Saracco fell in love with technology and its implications long time ago. His background is in math and computer science. Until April 2017 he led the EIT Digital Italian Node and then was head of the Industrial Doctoral School of EIT Digital up to September 2018. Previously, up to December 2011 he was the Director of the Telecom Italia Future Centre in Venice, looking at the interplay of technology evolution, economics and society. At the turn of the century he led a World Bank-Infodev project to stimulate entrepreneurship in Latin America. He is a senior member of IEEE where he leads the New Initiative Committee and co-chairs the Digital Reality Initiative. He is a member of the IEEE in 2050 Ad Hoc Committee. He teaches a Master course on Technology Forecasting and Market impact at the University of Trento. He has published over 100 papers in journals and magazines and 14 books.