What is a “Technological Business"? | Technological Leadership Institute

Posted on
September 12, 2018
Photo of a group of people working together at a table with tech gadgets and coffee

What comes to mind when you think of the phrase “Technological Business”? If you are like me, an Intel semiconductor fab may spring to mind. Perhaps an electric car from Tesla. Maybe Google, Facebook or Amazon.  

These are huge businesses that we clearly understand as being enabled by technology. They depend on continued advances in technology for their continued growth. And while being enabled by change, they also must live in fear that someone else will catch the next technological wave before they do, and condemn them to the ash heap of history.  

After all, these companies each crushed someone else. Remember Fairchild Semiconductor? The General Motors EV-1? My Space? The Sears catalog? Don’t remember them? Try Googling.)

With that in mind, let me use Webster’s Dictionary to define it:

A “Technological Business” is a business where mastering technological change determines success (or failure).

Notice I emphasize the words business and mastering.   

First and foremost, it is a business. It shares characteristics with the simplest business I can imagine, a Lemonade Stand. We have all seen a young entrepreneur on the roadside, trying to make a few bucks. But if you think about, the basic elements of a business are there:

  • Who are my potential customers?  
  • What do they want?
  • Where to set up my stand, so it is seen by the most potential customers?
  • What product(s) should I sell?
  • What price do I offer?
  • How do I make the product?
  • Does Mom have enough mix for my expected customers?  
  • Etc…

Imagine your success leads to a chain of Lemonade Stands. Now every one of those decisions grows in importance, along with questions like:

  • Who will work at my stands?
  • Are there any laws I need to worry about?
  • Am I making money?
  • Etc…

You can scale up to the biggest companies in the world, and these basic questions are all still important.  

But a Technological Business requires more. You must do all of the above and be a master of technological change. Even if you have the world’s best search engine, or microprocessor, or electric car, you must assume that changing technology means you cannot stand still with today’s offerings.

This blog is part of a 14-week series by TLI Senior Fellow and Honeywell/Edson W. Spencer Chair in Technology Management, Steve Webster. Each post will focus on one concept or idea discussed in his course MOT 5001- Technological Business Fundamentals. Other posts in the series can be found here.

About the Author

Photo of Steven Webster

Steven Webster

  • Honeywell/Edson W. Spencer Chair in Technology Management
  • Senior Fellow

Edson W. Spencer Chair in Technology Management

Steven Webster brings 31 years of experience with 3M to TLI’s graduate programs. Teaching primarily innovation classes and leading the Management of Technology minor program, Webster has expertise in new product development and commercialization; technology foresight, planning, and development; innovative organization and design and effectiveness; leadership development; global business; Six Sigma, display technology; consumer electronics, and communications technology.

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