Graphical User Interface or GUI is said to be one of the great innovations of the 1980s. Whoever saw GUI on a computer during that time was wow-ed by the interface and its capabilities. Few years later, GUI became a very common part of computing interface. People started to expect that in a computer. Then came touch. People were wow-ed by touch terminals at airports. Now it has become ubiquitous for all tasks like ticketing, getting quick information etc. Similar progression will continue for innovations in the future. All that is happening here is yesterday’s wow are becoming today’s expected and in the same spirit, today’s wow will become tomorrow’s expected.
Wi-fi receivers in laptop, touch on cellphones and broadband in homes were all wows yesterday and became expected today. Similarly if wi-fi in planes, 3D movies and civilian space expedition are wows today, they are very likely to become expected tomorrow. And there are some things that are unimaginable today that will become wow tomorrow and people will start expecting them the day after.
Bottom-line, don’t rest on your laurels if you were able to wow the world on one occasion. Your customers will start expecting that from you and there will be many clones lined up to cash on that tomorrow. Keep reinventing and wow them again and again. This in some ways explains the success of Apple. They stayed true to their address–1 Infinite loop–by forming an infinite loop of innovations over the last decade. They regularly come up with the next wow product just when people start expecting their last breakthrough product from them and their competitors. In a nutshell, key to success is to stay on top of the industry by continuous innovation.
Open application platforms in the technological landscape has proven to be one of the most successful ways to attract individuals and companies to create applications to serve several niche markets and increase the value of the platform. Whether it is Windows, iPhone or Facebook, each of these application platforms have gained a lot of value by letting anyone and everyone write software applications on these platforms. What has this to do with encouraging social investment?
Let’s map some roles here. Think of the $120 billion market as the platform for social investments. The individual developers or development companies are the companies that work to provide services like education, health care, commerce and so on to the people in this pool. Just like investors invest in the companies developing applications on the platforms, investors – both public and private – will invest in the companies providing the services to the people.
It sounds really straight forward, so what is needed to obtain this flow of social investments? First and foremost is the process in place for companies to get a holistic view of the market. It is apparent that return on investment here is largely based on volume, so to make it attractive we need a process in place for the larger mass across boundaries to take advantage of this development i.e. there should be a way for the services to attain scale. Technology can play a major role in enabling this holistic view. Technology can provide seamless flow of best practices, take a prototype of development in one place and scale it everywhere and provide transparency in the entire process.
This transparency brings us to the next point. That point is investments. We can look at investments in a couple of ways. First is financial investments. Investors putting in capital should be able to see their investment at work and should be able to project return of investments – both tangible and intangible – and providing a transparent system will enable them to see these returns and encourage larger investments. Second form of investment is in the form of resources. There are many companies in the consumer products world that have a massive reach in this market. They have a functioning machinery that can play a big role in providing scale to development and improve the overall rate of return. This can be cellphone companies spreading their networks across remote areas to provide everyone access to affordable form of communication, and through that easy access to education. Or you can think of it as Fast Moving Consumer Goods companies using their network to distribute medicines and health care products around the world. These kind of investment in resources is essential to attract social investment in the market.
To conclude, I believe if we draw analogies from an industry and an approach that has proven successful time and again, we can attract development and investment in the social enterprise world to attain long-term sustainable growth and prosperity.