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The Newsletter | Edition 099
Progress Report is dedicated to providing inspiration for action. In our Off-White Papers, we provide practical guidance on how to respond to our rapidly-changing world. This newsletter explores those topics in real-time, with information and action steps on how to make progress now.

But in this special newsletter series, The State Of, we dive a little deeper into the long-term work that comes after, in the places where we’re seeing new types of progress in action. From brand strategy to design, internet trends to sustainability, music to science, beauty to travel, and more.

The soothsayers of 2013 told me I'd be reading a book or changing my outfit during my drive home. But ten years later, I’m just screaming three different voice assistants’ names at my steering wheel while swerving around someone double-fisting Starbucks on the 101.

This isn’t the stress-free future I was promised.

Like the majority of tech leaps forward, the autonomous revolution has been less sprint-y and more crawl-y. And it's not just a result of COVID-19.

Automakers were reading the very convincing signals that autonomous driving, connected services, electrification, and shared vehicles required radical action to lead in the 21st century. Bets were made in the face of innovation-resistant legacy business models. But just as quickly, the forces changed position, and ultimately, electrification seemingly became the real winner.

Counter-intuitively, many of the companies that placed their bets elsewhere are still making progress, earning attention, and securing funding — even though electrification wasn’t their innovation focus a decade ago.

Ultimately, there are usually several tech revolutions happening at a time, not just one. And successful businesses often match their priorities to the rates of change, rather than investing in only the fastest moving tech.

Take our current moment. Gen AI, immersive wearables, and social media shifts each promise to rewrite history any minute. And as companies adopt a more flexible approach, they’re tracking highly innovative initiatives less like a bank account dashboard and more like a speedometer. They’re tracking innovation velocities over investment volumes to prioritize their energy.

But let’s get practical. No budgets are infinite, so reasonable businesses must decide where — not if — to match the market’s speed.


If you want to seize the masses, research fast.
The only reason it seems passé and trite is because it always works. If we research beyond our audiences’ relationship to the products or services we offer, and into what drives their ambition, connects them to others, and fills their free time, we can surface what people really value — and where our offerings fit in.

Capturing the personal nuance that shades universal truths helps companies make decisions that distinguish them and helps them scale when they’re not the first mover in the category.
If your internal objectives shift like a weather vane, decide fast.
Companies are made of people. People change their minds. And when minds change, goalposts move, and months of work gets retread for another number of months…over and over again. The trick is to skip debates over what could or should happen once the new widget is out in the real world, and instead build and shift it live.

Using the full market as a lab can be risky, but real-time data can help in making confident decisions quickly.

If everyone’s trying to beat you to market, polish fast.
What finishing touch can you add to the customer experience? How persuasively and inspirationally can you convey the value of the new widget to your audience? How should you arm your advocates with the right stuff to share their passion for what you’ve built, on their terms? Prioritizing the finishing touches can be the magic unlock that keeps your offering ahead.

Working with emerging tech in times like these can feel wildly frenetic. But by being judicious about where to sprint and where to keep pace, we can be sure that we meet the moment with urgency while keeping the longest of games top of mind.
Aaron Powers is a Partner at SYLVAIN, and leads the company’s business growth in the United States. He spends most of his time in the consumer tech, financial services, and entertainment spaces, and is a co-host of SYLVAIN’s weekly podcast, Critical Nonsense.

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