Lessons to be learnt
The poet Steve Turner once wrote 'History repeats itself. It has to, because no-one ever listens.' Yet there are some great lessons to be learnt from history if we know where to look.
I immediately thought of failed technologies, and in particular, the Sinclair C5 electric car (actually a tricycle). In a 2013 poll it was voted the worst innovation disaster in modern history. The C5 was an invention that was very much ahead of its time. It was so futuristic that no-one was really prepared for it, not many could see an immediate need, and very few were prepared to invest their cash in purchasing one. But that wasn't the only reason the Sinclair C5 failed to capture the public imagination. It was a great idea, but it was not fully conceived. It was difficult to drive, had a top speed of only 15 miles per hour, and required more battery power than it was capable of delivering. It was low on the ground and flimsy, and there were fears that its low visibility might result in a number of fatal accidents. Yet the most important factor that contributed to its failure was neither technological nor conceptual. On the day the C5 was launched to the press and media there was a cold spell, and there was snow on the ground (as can be seen in a quick Google image search). The open cockpit of the electric car was not conducive to comfort at the best of times. On a cold, icy day, it was a disaster. Bad press reports from the launch were the final nails in the coffin for the C5, and ultimately its production was halted.
From this sad tale, we can glean several principles that might aid us when we try to embed new technologies or ideas into conservative environments.
1) Relevance: Make sure the technology is relevant to the needs of your community
2) Design: Ensure that technology is easy to understand and use
3) Model: Provide a conducive environment within which to showcase the new technology
4) Protect: Closely manage anything that has the potential to go wrong
Photo by Alan Gold on Flickr
Lessons to be learnt by Steve Wheeler was written in Plymouth, England and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.