Ever since the Stone Age of the Digital Era, one tech company or another has cried foul or claimed it was there long before a competitor. The result of these shin-bumps over recent decades sometimes has been a less-than-smooth path for the evolution of digital technology. As we step into the second decade of the 21st century, however, companies are beginning to learn the critical value of free-flowing information at a time when the marketplace expects to be able to communicate instantaneously with others, to make instantaneous choices among products and to instantaneously access entertainment.  Any activity that is perceived to hinder these new market realities is certain to raise the ire of technology consumers and the temperature of their conversations. 

As active witnesses to the techno-tussles in a highly competitive industry, we at Airfoil have benefited from at least three lessons learned:

  • Innovation trumps introduction.  Being first with a product or service is far less important than developing the best version of an offering.  After all, the first search engine was Archie, the first laptop was the Osborne and the first Smartphone was IBM’s Simon.  None of these became a verb (such as “to Bing,” “to Google” or “to text.”) By communicating its innovation advantages, a company can build a substantial competitive edge in its category, even if it wasn’t first to market.
  • Attempts to toss stop signs in front of the innovation juggernaut by restricting access to features, bandwidths or usage won’t stop invention; they will just turn the marketplace against the intruder.  Companies that understand and respond to the marketplace—those that communicate their openness, that encourage anywhere-anytime access and that employ social media to engage with the marketplace—will earn a swifter trip to the top of the heap than those that struggle to reshape the market to their own products or services.
  • While innovation is the soul of success in today’s tech market, communications is the heart.  A steady beat of clear, concise and candid communications can build a brand that is strong at its core and renowned for the innovation that pulses through it.

For communicators, these lessons point the way to the next evolution of technology, one that acknowledges the importance of cooperating more and sharing more, because openness will be the most critical innovation that the market demands.

— Lisa Vallee Smith is the founder and CEO of Airfoil, a high tech PR agency with offices in Detroit and Silicon Valley.