Has innovation killed our humanity?

As a professional organizer, my goal is to come up with innovative ways to simplify the lives of my clients.  Innovation is not a new concept but these days innovative companies seem to be acting on our lives at warp speed and sometimes that speed has usurped their common sense, at least when it comes to the customer experience.  Case in point: blister packs.

The other day, I actually broke my scissors trying to open a new cell phone charger that was packaged like it was expecting an attack from an insurgency. Just when I thought I had finally broken through, I was foiled by a series of krypton-like twist-ties that never seemed to unwind.

It doesn’t just play out in packaging. It’s in product design as well.

Take those enormous toilet tissue dispensers in public bathrooms.   Can you ever find the end of the roll?  You just keep spinning and spinning.  Don’t even think about reaching in.  You may get in, but you’ll never get out.

And can someone tell me why we need light sensor paper towel dispensers? Are we really being kinder to the environment here or more innovative?  I still don’t know what was so wrong with the old, hand-cranked version.

When I have one of those days where everything simple becomes overly complicated, I start to wonder if I’m an unwilling actor in a 21st century version of George Kukor’s movie, Gaslight, pushing me, an otherwise sane person, into a state of borderline psychosis.  “There’s nothing wrong here. It must be you,” [close-up of face in look of terror, fade to black.]

Somewhere along the R&D cycle, it seems to me that many so-called innovative companies have forgotten about their customer’s experience.  They’ve got the development part down but what happened to the research?

Nobody has a stronger love/hate relationship to technology, than those of us born before 1980. I’m continually amazed at the level of communication, knowledge, entertainment and efficiency that technology has made possible.  Pandora. Itunes. Skype. Online Banking.  Yet with all its advantages, it only works if you know how to work it. I love what the Internet has brought me but it will never be able to pour me another cup of coffee.

I sing the praises of social networking sites. They’re great for reconnecting with old college friends but try to find actual help from them to solve a user problem? Good luck. It’s like sitting around the dinner table with my relatives. Every question is answered with a question. Whenever I find myself entering a “help” site, I feel like I’m driving on the LA freeway for the first time; going round and round and ending up nowhere.

The other day I was trying to find out how to adjust a setting for my Facebook business page. Each search took me to a new level of FAQs but no closer to resolution. At every dead end I was confronted with the site’s feeble attempt at gaining my trust.   “Did this answer your question? Thumbs Up Thumbs Down?” At that moment, what I was really feeling had more to do with another finger.

Perfection can indeed be the enemy of progress but what good is innovation if it only pisses you off?  How are we, the consumer, being served when companies seem more focused on being the first, the cutting edge, the latest and greatest, at the expense of the actual human beings using their products?

When it comes to providing real service, real help, real satisfaction, I wonder. Has innovation killed their humanity?

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