The Human Adaptability Problem

Erik Pfannmöller
Oct 8 · 3 min read

Mary Meeker has released a yearly Internet Trend Report every year since 1995. Her analyses are always interesting and insightful, but this year’s report in particular contained a slide that has stuck with me.

I am talking about Slide 157, which includes a chart that looks something like this:

Technology changes surpassing human adaptability? What is this nonsense! We are the most adaptable animal on the planet, after all! We can go anywhere, do anything!

We are indeed impressive beings. But therein lies the problem — we are so amazing that we are creating technology faster than we ourselves can adapt to it. We aren’t far past this gap yet — anyone who has seen a baby flicking through an iPad to get to the next episode of their favourite TV show can attest to that — but there is already a gap between our technology and our ability to adapt to it. And it is growing.

Think about all the amazing things an average human adult can do today. Think about how many of these things are available on-demand, possible from anywhere you and your smartphone might be. There are tools for everything. I have ~150 passwords saved in my password vault, spanning all types of user accounts and services — from Facebook to Zalando to LinkedIn. I have about 50 smartphone apps I use regularly. For navigating, I use Google Maps for day-to-day navigation, Komoot for planning bike trips, and Outdooractive for planning hiking trips which I then track in Strava. For file-sharing I, use Google Drive for work-related file-sharing, Dropbox for private use, OneDrive to sync my Microsoft OneNote, and iCloud to store my iPhone Backups and share notes with my family.

Every tool I use has its own set of functionalities. Every functionality, whether contained within the same tool or spanning different tools, has its own UX. On top of that, software and app updates are being launched daily. Every update launches new functionalities or UI changes. And I won’t even get into the almost comically regular launch cycles for popular consumer electronics (did you catch the iPhone 11 launch? Well, there are already plenty of articles speculating about the iPhone 12). This is what we mean when we talk about the rate of change of technology.

I would consider myself quite tech savvy (I am the CEO of a tech company, after all), but I definitely don’t understand every functionality of every tool I use. Nobody does.

So here comes the problem:

We only have twenty-four hours in a day, and technology can’t change that (for now). So, the more functionality we add to our toolkit, the shorter our attention span per functionality becomes. Also, as our learning curve is limited, our knowledge per functionality gets smaller. We have less time to figure out new features, decypher bad UI, or troubleshoot problems when they arise. We need things to “just work.”

In short,

Time is the new gold.

This means two things:

  1. tools need to top-notch UX/UI — we don’t want to parse unintuitive menus
  2. companies need to offer instant service — we don’t want to wait hours for an answer to a simple request, and we don’t want to be limited to certain customer service hours

Most companies understand the importance of good UX/UI, but not all have understood that instant customer service can be just as important — or even more important — to customer satisfaction and ultimately customer retention.

We want to help companies address the second point. That’s why Solvemate’s core purpose is to

Save people’s time.

We save the customer’s time by giving them an access point to instant, around-the-clock service. We save the support teammate’s time by reducing the number of repetitive requests in their workload. And we save our own customer’s time by offering a solution that works out-of-the-box.

If time is the new gold, saving someone’s time is one of the most meaningful contributions we can make. Let’s all help each other on that mission.

Erik Pfannmöller

Written by

CEO @ Solvemate.com Passionate about AI, computers and software. Like structure and efficiency. Nerdy on details. Love keyboard shortcuts. Chasing a big vision.

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