Innovation often stalls not because of technology but because we lack imagination

By Ilja Linnemeijer

We talk a lot about disruptive technologies, but what is equally striking are technologies that stay very close to earlier technological manifestations. The first car is one such example; it looked more like a carriage fitted out with a combustion engine than the vehicle we now regard as an automobile.

For an industry that has always thrived on creativity, the Entertainment & Media sector still has quite a few ‘horseless carriages’ driving around. Of course, we can read newspapers digitally, either on a site or in the traditional layout in PDF format, and videos and links embedded in the editorial content are updated constantly. So the packaging has been modernised, but the content is about the same as twenty years ago.

News can be absorbed or experienced, and it is precisely the experiential factor that is becoming increasingly important. We are already seeing the first experiments with virtual reality news images, meant to give readers a broader, deeper ‘news experience’. Wouldn’t it have been fun – in a manner of speaking – to have attended Donald Trump’s inauguration virtually and to have seen for yourself just how big the crowds really were?

And why do cinemas still look the way they did ten years ago? Why can’t filmgoers become part of the film or participate in the action? Or watch the same film from five different perspectives with multiple story lines? My partner and I could attend the same showing and each of us would see a different film. That would certainly change our post-film conversation, and we’d undoubtedly want to see the film again to experience the other story line.

And since I’m on a creative roll: just imagine that I can watch all the old Star Wars films at home with my son and then – as a lasting reminder of an enjoyable father-son weekend – print out a Darth Vader doll on my own 3D printer. And afterwards, play my favourite tunes without stealing income from my favourite band, because blockchain technology protects intellectual property rights and defines user terms and conditions.

In my imagination, everything is possible – and I’m not just making all this up, of course. There are small-scale experiments under way testing all these things. What I find striking, however, is that it often takes a long time to break out of old patterns (and revenue models). Technology isn’t the bottleneck, and hasn’t been for a long time. Technology can now do almost anything we can imagine. Unfortunately, humankind is often limited by its own associations and relatively fixed ideas about how things are supposed to be, like a newspaper or a film. It’s easier to stick with what we know than to go off the beaten track. But like other industries, the Entertainment & Media sector must continue to think creatively and imagine the impossible. Only then will we be capable of unlocking the full potential of new technology, of finding really new business models, and of discovering new disruptive applications and models.

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Ilja Linnemeijer

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