Are people scared of innovation?
“It’s always easier to avoid pain than to seek reward”, claims Adrian Leu, CEO of Inition, the company behind the UK’s highest VR experience, which just opened at The Shard, where visitors can test their nerve and balance on ‘Vertigo’, a virtual adventure which travels back in time to The Shard’s construction, suspending you on steel beams amongst the construction foreman at dizzying heights above London. In most cases, innovation leads to building that all important competitive edge, but the “journey there can often be full of potholes”, Leu continues.
This week I had the pleasure of meeting Leu, along with two other leading players in their fields of innovation; Sarah Rowley, Senior Marketing Manager at Microsoft and Jeremy Dalton, VR/AR Lead at PwC, for the recording of Eulogy’s latest Behind the Headlines podcast, to discuss the challenges of innovation perception, and what part comms can play in helping to drive adoption.
Latest reports from PwC claim that the VR market will be worth £72bn by 2021, in the UK entertainment and media sector alone. However, as the discussions with our three eminent guests revealed, actually convincing business to adopt the latest innovations, and persuading the public of the benefits, rather than worrying about the potential negative outcomes, can be a significant challenge.
So what can be done to allay fears around new technologies, and shift mindsets to speed up adoption?
One of the key steps in the process of building positive reputation is education. People often understand the theory but with technology such as immersive experiences like VR and AR, “to really bring it to life…you need to be in that headset, you need to experience what it’s like to be in that world”, Jeremy cites. Therefore, it’s essential to put the technology at the heart of communications and open it up so it becomes more accessible.
When it comes to AI, the theory is far more challenging to communicate. Underpinning that is a real linguistic challenge. AI can often come across “as a remote, inaccessible and almost secretive concept; not helped much by the media and Hollywood that has exacerbated the issue”, claims Rowley. But if you look at what AI is setting out to achieve, it’s essentially making computers smarter to help improve our society. “If you define it in a more accessible and democratic way, people are immediately less afraid of it”, states Rowley.
However, with media attention focusing on the scare stories and the potential negatives, preferring to report on scenarios such as the ongoing feud between Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk, about the potential doom that AI could bring to humanity in the future, the job of promoting the positives is presented with some serious barriers.
So it’s not necessarily that people are scared of innovation; they are worried about the potential repercussions of the unknown, intensified by images conjured in our minds from the media. If we’re going to shift perceptions, as Microsoft’s Rowley succinctly put it, we need to “bring people along for the journey”. We need to show people the real world tangible impacts and talk in real life scenarios, through the products that people are using now in their daily lives that are being powered by these technologies.
If you’re interested in discussing any of these topics with us, or would like to find out more about the communications services Eulogy provides within the technology space, please contact us at [email protected].