We Are All Inventors

In recognition of Twitter’s fifth anniversary, Robert Scoble published an historic circa-2006 video interview with the three founders of Twitter (see below). This video reveals the founder’s views, while the company was still in its infancy, on what Twitter was intended to be and how it was expected to be used. What I find most interesting about it is that, with hindsight from 2011, it seems apparent that Twitter’s creators really didn’t fully understand what they had created and how it would ultimately be used.

There’s a popular myth that inventors possess a laser-like vision of how their product or service will be used but, especially with disruptive technologies like social networking, creators usually have just a faint glimmer of an invention’s full potential (as is now widely known, Facebook started out as an online directory for college students). Ultimately, the party that decides how a unique technology will be used is the end user, who often creates new and interesting modalities that were never anticipated by inventors.

This is, at least partly, what makes modern technologies so exciting: there’s a grass-roots, crowd sourced, participatory aspect, which gives all of us a stake in the innovation process. Essentially, we are all inventors because we all help extend and enhance the ideas of the creators. I believe the most successful companies will be those who recognize and embrace that reality – companies that involve, engage and, to use Guy Kawasaki’s term, enchant their users by treating them a little less like customers and a little more like collaborators.

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