The Einstein Principle in Innovation: Make Time Variable!
By Shlomo Maital
The painter Salvador Dali once painted a famous portrayal of time, in the form of ‘rubber stopwatches’. It recalls Einstein’s breakthrough in relativity theory – in his theory of space and time, time is no longer a constant, but in fact slows as the speed of light is approached. Indeed, a space traveler moving at the speed of light would return to earth to find everybody much older than he or she.
This principle has now been used to revive television. A few years ago, everybody was eulogizing TV (Rest In Peace), with low quality programming jamming the cable airwaves and viewer ratings plummeting. Amazingly, TV has revived. According to David Carr, Media columnist for the New York Times, there is a blizzard of great new TV and cable series. Here are a few: Breaking Bad, Grey’s Anatomy (my own favorite), Nashville, The Walking Dead, House of Cards, Modern Family, Archer, True Detective, Game of Thrones, The Americans, Girls, Justified…and that’s just a start.
Time changed. That is – that high-tech remote, with the red button now enables us to record and view later, or to access and view an entire season of 7 or 13 or 24 shows from a whole series at one swat. Time has become variable. That is, we no longer have to watch the program at the time slot allotted to it – often, in the past, the single most critical variable for a series’ success or failure. We can now watch a series whenever we wish.
There is a major lesson here. When you innovate, if you can shift the time at which a product is used, consumed or enjoyed, you can turn failure into success. So think carefully not only about your innovation but also about the forgotten question, ‘when’? When is it used? When do people want to use it? When CAN they use it? Can I widen the range of (time) choice?
Television is the proof of concept. Welcome back, TV. As David Carr sums up, “the idiot box has gained heft and intellectual credibility to the point where you seem dumb if you are not watching it. “ Wow, what a change.