Ralf HallerRalf Haller March 13, 2010

The fear to intro new technologies

Being in high-tech business for nearly two decades I have seen many new ideas come and many more never become mainstream or disappear after only a short amount of time. Also the time it takes – while it seems this is getting shorter and shorter these days – can be relatively long before a new technology becomes used and adopted by the masses.

One reason in high-tech b2b markets why it takes so long to adopt new things is that there is an existing working infrastructure that is good enough and does mostly the job. New things need to be substantially better (10x in price and features) to make a quick impact. Problem here is of course that what is better cannot easily measured and quantified often so it is not even obvious even if companies sales and marketing will find all kinds of use cases showing ROI in a short amount of time.

One other reason are the human beings themselves. Used to do it one way or the other for a long time make them feel comfortable, they enjoy a certain amount of security and the feeling that they can deal with it well. New things are for most people – in particular conservative ones and the older generations – seen more as a threat than an opportunity. Also there is not so much desire to really try out something new, “why change anything?” they ask themselves, “we are doing very well”, so there is no reason really to change anything. We have just seen such thinking with the old boy group at the world soccer organization FIFA (its president Sepp Blattner is 73 and enjoys half the voting rights, whow, how is that possible?) where they ruled out any technical aids such as goal cameras or sensors in soccer balls. This despite the public, practically all coaches and players in favor of using new technologies to reduce the amount of mistakes when it comes to goals and also it is used in other sports (ice hockey, tennis) already. The arguments that the FIFA published are some that could be easily applied to the nay sayers in technology, here an extraction:

Fussball muss, erstens, weltweit nach den gleichen Regeln gespielt werden. Für Teenager in einem kleinen Ort etwa sollen die gleichen Regeln gelten wie für die Profis. Zweitens bringt es nichts, die Verantwortung für einen Entscheid vom Schiedsrichter der Technologie zu übertragen. Selbst Zeitlupen würden keine Klarheit bringen, und zehn Experten hätten zehn Meinungen, wie eine Situation zu beurteilen sei. Drittens kann die Anwendung von Technologie wie zum Beispiel zur Überwachung der Torlinie (mit Kamera oder Chip im Ball) sehr teuer sein. Viertens schliesslich ist Fussball ein dynamisches Spiel und kann zur Überprüfung eines Entscheides nicht einfach unterbrochen werden.

Quite funny some of these arguments. They basically have only one goal: don’t touch our nice world and confront us possibly with challenges that we don’t understand.

Despite this NO, I am convinced that in only a few years, when some of these people are retired (finally) technology will come where it makes sense and where it clearly helps to make better decisions. Grassroot movements and opinions cannot be stopped, only delayed. New ways in discussing opinions in blogs, communities, news portals will help to keep the pressure up. Below an online survey done in the Swiss newspaper Tagesanzeiger. 72% say about the FIFA decision “total nonsense”.