Escape the Tech Trend Trap

by Michael Van Houten

In Wim Wenders’ Sci-pocalyptic film Until the End of The World, a father and son invent an amazing device that allows people to record and “see” their own dreams. But what begins as a technological wonder eventually turns into a trap. It isn’t long before the inventors become victims of their own creation, glued to the personal screens they’ve created and addicted to “watching” their dreams over and over until they eventually become insane.

Sound a little familiar? As I rewatched this early-90s epic recently, I was struck by two things. First, I thought about the incredible pace of technological innovation that’s taken place over the last few years. From smart homes to self-driving cars, technology is rapidly changing the way we live our lives. Second, I couldn’t help but notice some of the film’s eerie parallels to our current, tech-obsessed society and the way we so intensely devote ourselves to the technological marvels in our lives.

We’re Caught In a Trap

This all serves as a good reminder of how easy it is for businesses to get trapped by technology trends. For those of us who are trying to connect with and attract an audience—whether it’s investors, customers or even potential employees—it’s tempting to jump onto the tech trend train as the best way to create excitement and build loyalty. The problem is that it’s impossible to decide which trend to embrace when the train is moving so fast that you can’t tell one “next big thing” from another. And these days, there are lots to choose from. Forget smart phones, people. Wearables, virtual and augmented reality, artificial intelligence and self-driving vehicles are just some of the things that are already beginning to dominate the digital landscape.

Don’t get me wrong: as a Web Developer and tech-junkie, I get geeked about all this new stuff—and I begin to imagine lots of possibilities and applications for our Navigate clients. But I have no idea which trends will catch on and have real staying power. I mean, I’m guessing you’re not doing much with those QR codes you printed on all your business cards a few years back. And remember Google Glass? If your company had put all its eggs in that “future-of-computing” basket a few years ago, you’d now have to hire a team of people to sell all the excess inventory on eBay.

So how do you choose what trend to follow when it’s impossible to know what’s going to last? More importantly, how can you make decisions about technology that won’t trap you for the foreseeable future?

Planning Your Escape

When it comes to your technology strategy, the key to avoiding the trend trap is to ask the right questions. Instead of simply latching on to the newest shiny object, think deeper and broader. What solutions can you implement that will keep your audience engaged over a long period of time? What tools will help your employees be more productive? Questions like these will help you to keep everything in perspective. A sleek new mobile app might seem cool, but a beautiful mobile web site that’s easier to update might be a more effective long-term solution. Your customers might be wowed by a virtual reality store, but maybe what they actually want is a real place where they can physically experience your product and get their questions answered in person.

The bottom line is this—there’s no doubt that technology has become an integral part of any business. The trick is to harness it in a way that helps you solve real problems and provide great experiences to your audience. Sometimes that WILL mean utilizing the latest technology, and sometimes it won’t. But if you focus on identifying the goals and questions instead of the novelty of the device, you’ll be one step further away from the trend trap and one step closer to long-term success.