Itâ€™s hard to be a medium or large corporation these days. The demands are not small, with expectations of investors, disappointing market performance, employee needs, government regulations and oversightâ€¦ thereâ€™s almost no time left for the most important part of any business: customers.
Of course, thatâ€™s where the current craze around social media comes in. The expectation is that any company can use all sorts of free tools to stretch marketing and PR dollars, and maybe make the customer feel more welcome picking up your brand at Wal-Mart.
But that whole scenario is bound to bust as surely as your pick of economic bubbles.
The reality is that to really engage using social media and realize honest benefits requires more than a passing interest in new shiny things. Social media requires real openness, and if youâ€™re not willing to be open, people can tell.
The power of this new ideal comes from the willingness to have an open culture. That means that there are no artificial barriers between departments, positions, business units, or people. It means that interacting with the public is a part of every position, not just the domain of marketing, PR, and an occasional press release from the CEO.
Openness means that the C-level is talking in public forums alongside the shipping department, or accounting, or human resources. Bringing openness to a culture means that everyone is able to talk about nearly anything.
With that being said, itâ€™s ok to still have intellectual property and protect that. Youâ€™re right in protecting developing business plans, or new products, or several other types of information an organization holds and makes money from. However, beyond that, an organization can talk openly about the challenges it faces, or hold up a consumer enthusiast group as a model, or any such thing that shows a human side of a company.
Sometimes we, that is companies, worry too much about what the competition may think. Organizations can get wrapped up in being too professional. Being open about things doesnâ€™t take away from any of this. When done from a position of transparency, and honest intention of open interaction, a company can grow a much more loyal consumer base, and open source their own PR army. But thatâ€™s another post.
Several years ago (okay, more than a decade) there was a great keynote speech by James Burke at ACM 97 where he talked about â€˜The Next 50 Years of Computingâ€™. Now, if youâ€™ve seen James Burkeâ€™s Connections series, you know what heâ€™s good at. Describing the intertwining relationships of time, technology, and happenstance.
Here, a decade or so later, Iâ€™ve been thinking how true those words are. At the time, Windows 95 was still new, Microsoft Outlook was in itâ€™s initial â€˜1.0â€™ release, and the browser wars of Netscape vs. Internet Explorer were on, and Google was still a dream to be developed. Back then, I was waist deep in technology as a Novell NetWare and then Windows NT â€œexpertâ€, and loving it. It was all about connecting computers together, and getting businesses connected to the Internet. Email and ICQ were HOT.
Fast forward a decade, and so much has changed. Where cell phones were a luxury that businesses could barely afford to sponsor, theyâ€™re now the de facto communication device of nearly all of us (who needs a land line). Why have browser wars when you can have 5 to choose from that all have a spot on your Start Menu? Where we used to pay upwards of $30/month for 56k dialup access, today most folks pay about that much for about 100 times that speed. Heck, we have faster connections on our cell phones than we did at home back then. GPS was a nifty gadget where you could plot waypoints to your favorite fishing hole; today, we have full-on navigation packages built into our vehicles to guide us anywhere. The list is endless.
The point Iâ€™m getting at is the change all these things have made to our culture. Weâ€™ve brought the concepts of democratization to technologies and industries that we used to think impenetrable. Through citizen journalism and social media, weâ€™ve toppled once powerful institutions. Weâ€™ve squeezed huge entertainment companies to the point that they lash out at their own customers because they canâ€™t find a new business model. The people of the United States felt they had a real voice that was listened to in the selection of their latest President.
All this is through the incredible advancements in technology that changes our culture.
A decade ago in that keynote by James Burke, he talked about how developed countries were 50 years ahead of underdeveloped countries, and how this pattern would repeat into the future. I believe weâ€™ve sped up the process and are much farther down that path than we believe. We are living in a future that our parents could never have dreamt of. We have the opportunities available to us at the touch of an iPhone that a decade ago werenâ€™t thought possible.
My question then, is what will you do with the advantage of living in the future?
Photo credit: Hometown Invasion Tour
As a note, if you follow the link to the ACM97 slide deck and videos, I just want to point out that it was compiled a long time ago and is not as polished as we see today on YouTube. Just remember that as you go through it. Itâ€™s still a great presentation, by a master at telling stories of history and technology. Oh, and I did try to find it elsewhere without luck.
Sorry, but thatâ€™s the truth. If youâ€™re afraid of sharing your opinion and letting the online world catalog and categorize you, then youâ€™ve already lost the edge. The realities of future (read: today) is that you need to be an active part of your industry or genre, or you lose out. Want that corner office? Then get out there and prove to folks that youâ€™re the person for it.
To be an active participant and be considered for advancement as we move into the future, folks are going to be looking to find out about you. If they perform several searches online for you and find nothingâ€¦ well, what does that speak of your accomplishments? Yes, references and a call to previous employers is important, and prudent. However, if folks just canâ€™t find out about you outside of work, or what your passions are, or what your opinions are â€“ it does allow them to form an opinion about you.
Is the era of traditional broadcast media nearing an end? Youâ€™ve heard and read that question and the supporting arguments for the last few years. Youâ€™ve also heard the rebuttals and talking points from either side of this intriguing debate.
What I posit is that these are simply â€œafter the factâ€ arguments and that this particular corner was turned a few years ago.
Itâ€™s called convergence, and it usually occurs without much fanfare at the time of the actual change. Its usually afterward when people, companies, heck even governments, belatedly realize that they are no longer of any relative value to what they used to be.
Many new tings happening in the economy are pointing to the reality that weâ€™re smack-dab in the middle of the re-adjustment to this new business environment. The number of companies looking into social media, and realizing the parallels to previous challenges. Exploring the new tools to old problems and the possibilities they offer to those willing to invest the time and money with open minds to the change that is occurring.
The recent NYTimes article $200 Laptops Break a Business Model is a great example of the awakening to this new reality. Consumers have change â€“ and not just any consumer. The next big wave of consumers after the baby boomers. The consumers that are even now shaping the future economy has they have recent politics.
The future is much different from a consumers perspective. The tried and true models donâ€™t always apply, especially where consumer electronics and consumable services are concerned. The challenge is to recognize that youâ€™re business model is hopelessly stuck in the 20th century, look at how people are consuming your product, and adjust to meet them there.
Iâ€™ve argued, like many, that the recording industry (hey they make it easy to pick on them), should drop any pretense of rights management and offer every music track at $.25 (U.S.), make them so much ridiculously easy to buy that itâ€™s too much work to pirate. Make them available in every format and simply realize profits through sheer volume rather than maintaining some false price-point per CD that they believe they need to hit. Turn around and make the CD-ROM a premium product that I would seek out for something special. Like the 1986 Bruce Springsteen album Live â€˜75 to â€˜85 boxed set â€“ make it worth spending money on the extras, because whether you like it or not you can find all the tracks online.
Like many I often wonder if I even need a television any longer. Sure I veg out in front of an HD CSI:Miami marathon like anyone else might. However, I also am finding more and more of the media I REALLY want to watch online. From movies to TV shows, to music, and of course books, magazines, blogs, etcâ€¦ All I really need is a big, fast, fat pipe into the Internet. Everything else just gets in the way.
To this end, big, fast, expensive computers are overkill for the needs of the average person who just wants to consume and participate in online media. The changes arenâ€™t over either, but the biggest of them are now a matter of history that we can debate as we all like to do.
Photo credit: zizzybaloobah
My apologies for the long, somewhat redundant post, but Iâ€™m working my way back to a regular blogging schedule. This and several upcoming posts are part of that process. Things that Iâ€™ve needed to write about for months are just now coming out. Some are timely, some a bit behind the times, but all relevant to me. Thanks for reading.
Itâ€™s surprising that something as portable as the T-Mobile G1 and powerful a platform as Android can be so useful. Perhaps it shouldnâ€™t be, but Iâ€™ve been using my G1 as a mobile internet device more and more often.
The biggest issue as many will point out is power, and the G1 is worse at power consumption and management than any other device. On the other hand, the abilities simply outweigh the power disadvantages that it has. Besides, keeping a charger (AC, USB, and auto) at hand eliminates that issue for the most partâ€¦ minimizes it really.
Since jumping from the Windows Mobile camp to Android, Iâ€™ve noticed that my phone is fun & easy to use again. Itâ€™s more powerful, simply because I use it for everything rather than explain how useful it can be as I did with Windows Mobile. The software is fun too â€“ many more new ideas and attempts to do different things than the staid, boring software selection that WinMo had when I last looked (itâ€™s changing I know).
Anyway, just wanted to drop a note about how much Iâ€™ve come to depend on the G1, much more than my MDA that stayed by my side for 3 years. Even though I believed that to be a powerful, useful device, Windows Mobile canâ€™t hold a candle to Android (or the iPhone) at this time. The phone is fun again.