Reversing The Flow Of Innovation

My partner Brad has a good post up on the Union Square Ventures blog this morning. He’s been thinking about why a lot of the innovation in information technology is happening in consumer facing web services. He notes that:

In the old days, electrical engineers focused on getting computers
to work not on getting people to engage with the systems built on top
of those computers. The folks that built enterprise software were
vaguely aware that their systems had to be accessible to the humans
that used them but they had a huge advantage. The people who used them
did so as part of their job, they were trained to use them and fired if
they could not figure them out.

Today, no one tells you to use Facebook. There are no employer
sponsored training sessions on the use of The burden is on
the designer of the system to meet a need, entertain, or inform their
users. They also have to seduce those users, hiding complexity,
revealing one layer at time, always enticing, never intimidating, until
the user one day finds they are intimately familiar with power and the
pleasures of the service.

There’s more and if you want to read the whole post, click here.

#VC & Technology

Comments (Archived):

  1. andyswan

    One of the reasons that this is possible now is that production on the web (instead of a large box) allows the engineer/designer to test the product in the hands of 1000’s of users at almost no cost and understand within 3 extremely short iterations exactly how the customer interacts with the product vs how he wants to interact with it.Don’t be afraid to push your 1st iteration out there: Ugly and with 3 places on every page asking for feedback. 🙂

  2. andyswan

    Love this from the article too: “Craigslist collapsed the multi-billion dollar classified industry into a fabulously profitable multi-million dollar web service.”Someone is going to do this to real-estate agents. I can’t wait.

    1. jeremystein

      ive been thinking about services that go after real-estate agents for the past few months. the problem is that there are a LOT of laws and liabilities. you should check out

  3. BmoreWire

    I think one thing that’s going on right now is that a lot of marketing people are learning to make websites. Before if you didn’t have a top tech school CS major you s-o-l. Now through programs like wordpress or drupal and a quick php tutorial a lot of marketing people are able to do a lot more then ever before and are combining their brand and customer service experience with design and code. As code gets higher and higher level I expect this will progress. I mean php in itself is a language that sits above several others that down to it’s root level is binary code. I look forward to the day of a CMS to rule them all!!

  4. Christopher Herot

    Actually there is a growing army of social media consultants training corporate users (or at least their marketing departments) how to use Facebook, Twitter, etc. The difference is that these products proved themselves in the consumer market first. Once they became forces that couldn’t be ignored they were introduced into businesses. Back when computing was expensive, innovation had to come from government (NASA, DARPA) or business. Now that it’s cheap and (relatively) a few entrepreneurs can launch a consumer service and build an audience in less time than it takes for an enterprise to argue about the “business case.”

  5. Thomas

    Nothing new here. Considered usability to drive rapid adoption has been a founding hallmark of “Web 2.0” for some time from the beginning. A random googled post from March of 2007 discusses this idea:…But to take your point further, I think the implication is that the plumbing is losing value whereas the app is gaining value.