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How Digital Technology Is Killing Innovation

(October 2011) posted on Tue Nov 08, 2011

Times of change can be roads to revenue or ruin. Coudray describes how you can evaluate your situation and aim for growth.

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By Mark A. Coudray

Then, about 1998, something happened. The evolution of color, halftoning, separation technology—it all kind of stopped. I didn’t notice it at first, but it was definitely there. From that point on, the quality of our printing kept getting better and better, but the innovation stopped. There were only smaller and smaller refinements, and to be honest, hardly anything new since late 2006. It pains me to make that admission, but think about your own business or the screen side of the industry and tell me honestly I’m not the only one who sees it.

How we innovate going forward
Here’s what I’ve noticed. First and foremost, trades shows and the trade press started cutting back the number of seminars, columns, and features. They felt the crush of declining show attendance ad revenues. The events and publications got smaller and smaller. This is of major significance. It is the beginning of an accelerating decline.

Innovation is based on improvement. Improvement means doing things differently. To introduce and market any new technology successfully, you must have a market in place that understands the significance of the improvement and has a willingness and capacity to implement change. Furthermore, that change or improvement must demonstrate enough economic or market significance to justify the capital investment and the disruption within the organization.

When the primary educational channels are choked down to the point where nothing of significant substance can be delivered, you starve the end users in the market to the point where they jeopardize the successful launch and adoption of any new vendor technology because they are not prepared to deal with it.

This wasn’t a problem as long as we lived in the analog world. A major purchase would last for 20 years or more, and education could be delivered over time with no ill effect. Innovation was slower. Businesses could digest new knowledge at a more reasonable pace.


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