Why innovation must be part of public media's DNA

If it seems like the world moves faster, technologically, with each passing year, you’re not imagining things.

Consider this chart:

Starting from its introduction, the simple telephone took 71 years to arrive in just 50% of American homes. Think about that. An entire generation was born, lived and died waiting for a telephone to arrive in their home, and only half of them got it!

Even electricity took 52 years to reach 50% of homes. Cell phones — that ubiquitous device most of us take for granted — took 14 years, but the MP3 player took less than half that time.

Basic Internet access — the new omnimedia connection — took 10 years to reach 50%, and in the early days it wasn’t even that much to talk about. Today, high-speed Internet access is in well over 50% of homes in the U.S. and average speeds are rising (though not fast enough for me).

There are two lessons here I can see:

  1. We cannot be transmitter companies (and indeed, we never were — we just thought we were because it was easier that way). Technology is a tool, not a purpose.
  2. The public naturally innovates as better tools arrive for information gathering, sharing and entertainment. We must innovate with them to serve them; innovation must be built into our DNA.

What other lessons can you see in this chart?

A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be. –Wayne Gretzky