Yes, The Slug And Lettuce’s Call Centre Is A New Technology Just Like Apple’s iPhone

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We’ve a piece in the Telegraph bemoaning the peaking of Apple’s iPhone and asking where the next wave of innovation is going to come from – they not realising that the call centre the Slug and Lettuce used to book Crissy parties is also a new technology. Sure, not as world changing, not as impressive but a new technology, an innovation, just the same. And it’s that second, that new method of arranging the liver explosion get togethers which changes the world over time.

Apple’s reign may be over, so where will the next great wave of innovation come from?

Well, yes, Apple’s iPhone was indeed an innovation. The expert on this stuff is William Baumol and he divides into invention – new stuff – and innovation, either new combinations of extant stuff or the use of extant to do new stuff. Sure, the lines between bleed a bit. Everything, but everything, is just a new arrangement of the 92 plus the radioactives elements we’ve got. But we can usefully claim that GPS, touchscreens, these are inventions. Sticking them all into the same box and calling it an iPhone is innovation.

Yet we might also want to switch this a bit and ask, well, what if the iPhone is the invention? The innovation is what people then use it to do?

At which point:

The pub company behind Slug & Lettuce and Walkabout has toasted a bumper Christmas, boosted by diverting festive bookings through a specialist call centre in Derby. Stonegate, which operates 735 pubs and bars across the UK, said December like-for-like sales grew by 7.8pc, compared with 5.5pc in 2017. Sales in the second half of the month were particularly strong, some 12pc higher.

Yes, agreed, a call centre doesn’t depend upon iPhones even if they’re obviously in use in contacting it. But this is the vastly more important form of innovation. What is it that people do with technology, with inventions? When people use it to do some new thing then we’re richer by the value of that new thing. When people use it to do some old thing more efficiently then we’re richer by that greater efficiency. And the thing is, it’s that greater efficiency bit which really leads to the increase in living standards over time.

Sure, iPhones are great. But it’s what we use them to do that matters. The process of our discovering new such things by no means over yet – we’re still in the innovation wave triggered by them that is.

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Jonathan Harston
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Jonathan Harston

Shipping containers existed for a couple of hundred years. The transformational innovation was standardising the sizes across different modes of transport.

timworstall
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timworstall

Sorta. The real innovation was standardisation of bolts, connectors, shapes that fit together, allowing stacking etc. “The Box” is great book on this subject.

Jonathan Harston
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Jonathan Harston

Yes, it was a reference in 50 Things That Made The Modern Economy, and on my reading list.

Tim Almond
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Tim Almond

One thing people rarely grasp is how small most innovation is, and that’s the same for Apple. The iPhone isn’t that big a leap in technological innovation from the N95 (and the first generation had less features). It’s that it added two things – the touchscreen UI and the app store, and these two tipped the device in the pocket from a phone that you occasionally might do some smart things with into a portable computer in your pocket. These were incremental changes, but rather important ones. There are sometimes products that just add one more increment that tips it.… Read more »

Quentin Vole
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Quentin Vole

The Handspring Treo 180 had a touchscreen and apps five years earlier.

Tim Almond
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Tim Almond

I knew someone would come along and say this!

I owned a Microsoft phone with a touch screen before the iPhone. But it wasn’t very good.