[Case study] How 400 year-old tech still beats digital solutions

At the UK Hydrography Office, the "three deaths" keep paper in use for mapping our world

[Case study] How 400 year-old tech still beats digital solutions
The "three deaths" keep paper in use for mapping our world | Photo by NASA / Unsplash


The "three deaths" of innovation that Safi Bahcall pointed out in Loonshots vex innovators who want their solutions to move up the adoption curve.

This time: How a 400 year-old technology is keeping digital solutions from taking hold.

The story

Hydrographers who create and update ocean maps still use paper charts because digital solutions run into multiple real-world (acceptability) problems, despite theoretically being desirable, viable, and feasible.

[Source: BBC Future]

The point for doing credible innovation work

Two points:

  1. You must pursue Acceptability in addition to Desirability, Viability, and Feasibility. I.e., do "diva" (DVFA) innovation!
  2. Heed the three deaths that bedevil innovation adoption in addition to the better-known adoption curve. Loosely speaking, those three deaths are stakeholders' and others' beliefs that innovation will (a) "never work," (b) "not be worth the cost and effort," and finally (c) "have unacceptable side-effects."

The three deaths mix a bit in this story. But mainly, it points to "unacceptable side-effects” as the main blocker to adopting digital solutions.


Find the full story here (External links)

Baraniuk, Chris. "A cut too far: The people who can't give up paper." BBC Future. (Sep 24, 2023)

UK Hydrographic Office


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