For those of us fascinated by tech, there’s never a shortage of new developments to grab our attention. We seem to be living in a technological renaissance, and experts have the numbers to support that idea. Needless to say, business owners should be paying attention to this revolution and looking to integrate new and innovative solutions wherever possible.
However, there’s a serious underside to rushing into such transformations. The drawbacks of rapid technological development don’t negate the benefits, but are still very real. We do a disservice to the public (not to mention ourselves as entrepreneurs) if we don’t acknowledge their ability to hurt our customers when used too hastily. There are two high-profile examples of the hard lessons learned through rushed innovations.
Automated cars have been an area of major tech interest, promising a world of convenience, efficiency, and added productivity that many observers salivate over. But we’re not there yet, and there have been some major bumps in the road as of late. Earlier this year, Uber’s automated car program took a tragic step backwards when one of their test vehicles struck and killed a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona. That was just the first death of a third party involving the autopilot function; in March, a Tesla set to autopilot struck a divider and burst into flames, causing fatal injury to its driver. This was the second such incident for Tesla. Nobody will deny that there are always hazards on the way to introducing new tech, but that road should never be a deadly one.
This is a stark lesson for entrepreneurs dealing with new, relatively untested technologies. As a small business owner, you don’t have the existing brand of a Tesla or Uber, so the damage done in your case may well mean the end of your company. Putting your neck out with some forward-thinking tech naturally comes with some risks, but the very lives of your testers (not to mention those who share the road with them) should never be jeopardized.
The self-driving car fiasco is an extreme example. For your growing business, there are practical ways to incorporate new tech without things getting out of control. For one, implement concrete standards for tech integration, with a decision maker equipped to decide whether certain paths are worth going down, both morally and financially. Rushing into automated driving has resulted in at least three fatalities, enough to give serious pause in enacting major changes.
If you ever doubted consumer data safety was a crucial issue in today’s tech-heavy business environment, the recent scandal involving Facebook and political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica should erase that skepticism for good. The recent revelation that the third party political consulting firm had an inappropriate level of access to personal data collected by Facebook has turned the once-untouchable tech giant’s business upside down, and consumers’ trust in Zuckerberg and company has plummeted.
Facebook could have taken a closer look at its user base and learned that people would be protective of their personal information (albeit information that they willingly supplied to Facebook in the first place). There’s an implicit contract there that Facebook willfully ignored, thanks to their “move fast and break things” mode of operation. For a growing business, that kind of reckless abandon is to be avoided. You want to earn a high level of trust, one that can’t be put in jeopardy with careless data security. That means a genuine commitment to keeping valuable information private. It’s the very stuff of people’s lives in the information age, so treat it that way. For small business owners, the lesson is simple: when collecting personal data, always err on the side of transparency and caution.
I’ll never say your company should lag behind when it comes to adapting new tech. In today’s environment that would be equivalent to a death sentence. But making it a priority to look before you leap would do any business well, especially up-and-coming ones with much to lose. Lessons to be learned from tech giants like Tesla and Facebook aren’t so far removed from your smaller businesses practices: namely, to handle tech with care. It doesn't only happen to the household names, either. Any tech, from SaaS to self-driving cars, has the possibility to do real damage to your business if wielded irresponsibly.