"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." - Arthur C. Clarke
"You mean, I simply push this button, and it just shows up?"
**It**, in this case, is the magical Uber Black Car; magical being relative to the pedestrian, unreliable yellow taxi.
What Uber did in re-thinking the gray space between taxis and private car services is instructive.
Logistically speaking, they rejiggered the following:
- The Ordering Process (it's push-button simple via an app; no interminable waiting on hold for a dispatcher)
- The Transparency of Availability (you can literally see how many cars are nearby, and how quickly your car will arrive)
- The Nature of the Transaction (no money ever comes out of your pocket; you never have to think about the tip again)
- The Reliability of Your Order (you are notified on your mobile when Uber arrives, the driver confirms that you are indeed the orderer; no more pickups that don't show up, or taxis 'stolen' by pedestrians on the street)
- Your Relationship to the Driver (most drivers feel like entrepreneurs; Uber is a new revenue source for them; all drivers are identifiable, and subject to being rated and reviewed)
Part of the magic of Uber is that the company is able to create this transformative experience without owning any of the cars or hiring a fleet of drivers.
Given the above, is it any wonder then that "uber-ization" has become my go-to term for industry re-invention through new combinations of design, user experience, workflow and logistics -- as enabled by broadband, mobile and the cloud.
NIKEiD: Re-Thinking What a Shoe Can Be
The power of great technological waves and re-invention in general is not merely that they change how things are made, or what they cost.
Rather, it's that they change our concept of what is possible, and what a given medium can be.
In the realm of motion pictures, adding sound (and talking) to films, completely transormed the industry.
In the case of ecommerce, the boundarly-less and friction-free nature of Amazon, has completely disrupted retail.
In the realm of mobile, building a unifed platform around iPhones, iPads, iTunes and iOS, has catalyzed the post-PC era.
I thought about this truth yesterday, as the pair of fully customized NIKEiD shoes showed up at my door.
Not only were they beautiful (okay, beauty is in the eye of the beholder), but what left me feeling awed was the fact that what had begun as a series of push-button simple clicks in San Francisco, had traveled across the globe, navigating an unimaginably intricate manufucturing and logistics process to find its way back to my front door.
The UPS route home alone (see above) shows stops in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Philippines, back to China, Alaska, Kentucky, Oakland, and finally, San Francisco.
Simply magic, and I wonder how many other products, services and industries are ripe for such reinvention.
If you are sitting in an industry where commoditization and/or disruption is your future (through de-localization, re-invention and digitization, you need to heed the words of Google CEO Larry Page.
His guidance? "I encourage more companies to do things that are outside their comfort zone. It gives you more scalability."
Food for thought.