Malcolm Gladwell: 3 reasons for the 'lag' between innovation and adoption

The years-long gap between developing the technology to improve a product, service or process and actually implementing the technology and reaping the benefits is "one of the great puzzles of our age," according to Malcolm Gladwell.

During a keynote address at the Gartner IT Symposium/Xpo in Florida on Oct. 23, the best-selling author and journalist discussed the persistent lag between innovation and implementation in nearly every industry, PC Magazine reports.

Mr. Gladwell offered three possible reasons for this "puzzlingly long lag time":

1. Generational lag: In some cases, even if the technology exists to improve an existing entity, society may not be ready to abandon tradition and embrace the new method for quite some time; Mr. Gladwell reportedly offered as an example ATMs, which were invented in the 1960s but were not accepted as the norm for cash withdrawals until the 1990s.

2. Incorrect marketing: It took 60 years for the telephone to catch on as a widely used mode of communication in the U.S. since, according to Mr. Gladwell, for its first several decades in existence, it was marketed purely as a business device only available to men in urban areas. In short, he said, the telephone business initially "got it completely wrong," and had to learn by trial and error.

3. Lack of "strategic home": Finally, some innovations are widely accepted as beneficial and have a clear purpose, but are not needed by society at the moment they are invented. Though invented in the U.K. decades prior, the tank was not used to its fullest extent until World War II simply because British forces preferred riding horses.

The first two factors are difficult to avoid, but gaps caused by the third of Mr. Gladwell's reasons can be bridged with the right mindset. "If we want to close the lag between invention and adoption, the only real way to do it is to open our imaginations," he said.

More articles on innovation:
Healthcare innovation is focused on personalization, cost savings: report
5 traits of highly innovative companies
U of Arizona Health Sciences to offer course in developing, commercializing medical treatment

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