Toni Talks Tech: Lessons from the rice cooker.
The other day on twitter, there was a conversation around the essence of a rice cooker. For some, it is technology that makes life easier, more convenient. For others it is a wasteful product (I paraphrase heavily), as rice is already easy to cook, all you’ve got to do is put the rice in the pot, add a little salt, toss water in and put heat to the burner of the cooker, so why is technology needed for it?
I took a walk around my house that day and I began to look at all the tools and gadgets that I had, not because they were necessary, but because they were practical. The air fryer, necessary or practical? The Nespresso machine, useless expense or easy coffee at your convenience? The smoothie maker, essentially a blender with a fixed purpose, certainly not indispensable but why should anyone be forced to drink smoothies that come with the pungent odeur of onion?
Technology has made it so that we can curate our life experiences, at least more than we did at any other time before. The increase in global wealth means that we can consume more than we did at any other time before too. The growth of audio and visual content alone shows us just how much we consume. So how much of feeding ourselves what we want, leaves space for what we need? There are things that become more and more unimportant to us as we continually consume what matters to us. This leaves other things as just things.
The sheer volume of content available means we are now able to select exactly what it is that we want to consume. We follow the people we want to see on our social media feeds, we pick the movies we want to watch on Netflix, we select the podcasts we like to listen to on Spotify and Apple Podcasts and the list goes on. These services study human behaviour and make recommendations for what else we’d like according to our taste patterns. This increases the value of such things to us beyond other things as there is much focus on us as individuals. However, there are things that although aren’t as important to us, are still necessary. These things become laborious as we aren’t as engaged with them.
So for some, cooking isn’t a thing of interest, but more so a thing of necessity. So why would they purchase a rice cooker, if rice can still be cooked easily without it?
Personally, my main argument for a rice cooker is convenience. Knowing that there’s an extremely low risk of burning my rice while I am occupied with other things that interest me more than monitoring a pot on the cooker. The truth is, I’m not phased by the product itself, what I favour is the solution it provides.
Technology today sometimes feels like it has maxed out, like we can’t go any further than we have already – which I think, is why more and more ridiculous conspiracy theories grow by the day about how governments will soon start controlling our minds and/or inserting chips in us for whatever reason. Whether or not these theories are true, I can’t say, and means nothing to me. However, I can say that technology is far from maxed out. The more I thought of the rice cooker, not as a product, but as a solution – the more I understood the two main things that make innovation thrive.
Technology excels when it is human focused. Human focus doesn’t just mean convenience, but it also means that solutions are tailored to our taste. So, for new businesses out there just a quick thought – how does your new offering provide either of these?
Humans love to feel seen and heard. How does your offering provide that? There are many great ideas out there – but how well do they fit in with the practicality of human life. There are ideas that may be technologically feasible and economically viable, but if we can’t see how they’ll improve our lives – there is no market for them. At the end of the day, humans are the ones that are consuming.
Success isn’t in products or services, it’s in solutions.
Words by Toni Peters, a writer and poet based out of London. Talk to her on twitter: @toniverse. She's on instagram: @toniverse. And she's got a podcast, the Grey Diaries. It's a journal for grief - sharing various accounts of loss and grief and providing support in loss.