The technology industry is driven by innovation. Ceasing to innovate or shirking change leads to decay and death, possibly a very long and slow one (see: RIM). The first step towards innovation is raising expectations. Progress will not be achieved or even started until someone recognizes that a service, product, or company
can be, should be, must be better.
Raising expectations is something that needs to be internalized by each individual. It is a way of looking at the world, at everyday services and products — always looking for ways of doing things better. It will not be possible to always act on these ideas, but continuously analyzing the world around you prepares you for the moment a relevant opportunity does arise. You will be the one to recognize a gap in a product or in a market, and you will be the one to capitalize on this opportunity, an opportunity others are blind to but will later claim as obvious.
Raising your own expectations leads you to question the world. Question why the world isn’t the way you think it should be.
The second part to this is of course execution – having the chutzpah, conviction and guts to convert your idea into a product that people will buy. Bloggers/entrepreneurs love talking about this but I leave this aspect for a future post, although I have touched on it here.
Back to raising expectations. Here’s a recent example of the consequences of raising expectations.
A lot of people would say that LinkedIn is an innovative company, offers a solid user experience and provides a great service, one that didn’t exist just a few years ago. LinkedIn continues to grow successfully and has fulfilled the need for a networking site built around careers and recruiting. LinkedIn is a clear leader in this space, has solved some big problems, and it would be folly to try to take this behemoth on now. Right?
There’s Zerply — one of the startups in this summer’s 500Startups batch, with a founding team from Estonia. They presented this past week at the 500Startups NYC Demo Day hosted by GeneralAssembly. All presenters played to a packed house.
Right off the bat Zerply told us at least 3 things they identified as wrong with LinkedIn:
1) Discovery is broken
2) No social component
3) It’s ugly
“It’s broken”. You will hear that phrase a lot among successful entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs expect more and demand more out of the services they use, services that the typical (“normal”?) person is often seemingly completely satisfied with. Even worse, a typical person often senses or knows they are frustrated with a product but fall into the “it is what it is” group — accepting the status quo. The typical person feels that change is something done by other people, or terrifyingly worse, change is something that happens to them.
The entrepreneur on the other hand questions and takes action. The Zerply team wants to be able to find the right person in an easier way. The current search capabilities on LinkedIn, they argue, are too restrictive. How could discovery be a natural process of the user experience? Zerply is trying to solve this problem. This problem always existed, but it took a couple of guys raising their expectations of what they wanted and needed from a career networking site.
Of course, in order to solve this problem Zerply first needed users. So the team built a beautiful, flowing interface with big beautiful typography and added social dynamics (connect through Twitter, add your Facebook friends, link your Tumblr feed). I still think some of the UI components can be improved, but they have certainly identified weaknesses with LinkedIn, and are on their way with a growing user base.
Zerply is going a step further by challenging some popular thinking. A lot of people are of the mind that employers and recruiters should not be able to view personal social data, such as pictures, blog posts, comments on Facebook, etc. Facebook has improved privacy controls in response to this clamor. Zerply is taking a forward-looking stance here by stating that people are increasingly defined by their digital social lives and that these aspects should be prominently displayed as part of a resume. Hence they allow users the option of linking several social applications to their Zerply account. This is also smart because it opens up a lot of useful user-specific metadata to Zerply.
In summary, expect more from the world and from yourself. That’s how progress begins.
People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can’t find them, make them. G.B. Shaw
Change does not happen by itself. It is not something passive that is a natural part of the world that happens to us. It is a force driven at its core by one person who expects more from this world. It takes an individual capable of leadership convincing other individuals to come together to fight for a vision of the future. Imagine the future and show others this future, and bring to them that which has never existed.
Follow Girish Rao on Twitter here.