For some years I worked for a services company facing the problem of lowering margin due to the shift of technologies very difficult to follow.
For some years in every board of directors the general manager was screaming that what we needed was a “magic idea” to solve the situation and make a lot of money.
The example used was always the same: pre-washed ready to eat salad. In the past salad was only sold as taken from the garden and we had to cut and wash it home, then somebody had the idea of preparing it and sell ready for the table.
The concept that such a simple idea came to the market out of the blue so many years after the existence of supermarkets only because nobody imagined it seemed to me quite a strange one. I did some research and I've found that it was not a problem of creativity, many attempts where done without success because if you cut and wash the salad in few hours will become dark and flaccid, something you do not want in your dish!
Pre-washed salad history started in 1986. Two years before Drew and Myra Goodman came to Carmel, central California, and begun growing strawberries in a small farm. The name of the company is Earthbound Farm (www.ebfram.com), the business was going well, they began with salad and they found a way to prepare, cut and distribute it to restaurants and supermarkets with a reasonable shelf life: they introduced MAP, Modified atmosphere packaging.
Responsible of the rapid deterioration of washed salad is that 21% of oxygen present in the air we breath. Lowering Oxygen and putting an higher quantity of Nitrogen and Carbon dioxide makes the oxidation process slower and the salad is good for several days. Here you see the first salat bag proposed to the market in 1986.
Success was huge, the company now is the leader in the US market and the technology is widely used all over the world.
So my boss was wrong, the search of an idea is only part of the project of doing something new, what we need is to find the right marriage between needs and enabling technology.
A common feminist slogan in the 1960s was: “Behind every great man there's a great woman”, we could make a paraphrasis and affirm that “Behind (almost) every great idea there is s great technology”.
Most of the people thinks that this phrase is coming from US, but is not true, it is much older and comes from latin: “Dotata animi mulier virum regit”, a woman with courage and spirit supports and advises her husband.
When we do work on interfaces usability a front end only approach is not advisable, we need also a deep knowledge of the technology that is “under the cover” to know what is really possible to do and how much effort it will cost to us.
This is the main reason why in my “Web design” class in NABA University I keep asking to my students to get to a basic knowledge of technical stuff like HTML and CSS and I do think it is the right approach.
Speaking about web pages underlying technology changes VERY rapidly: this makes permanent study an essential part of our job, and i like it!
Actually I do not like the idea that behind a great MAN there is a great WOMAN, it looks like we think that the man stays always forward and the woman behind, I would prefer to say that behind a great person there is another great person or even better that they are, like technology and creativity side by side.