We are at a unique period in history. There are new opportunities developing with every new innovation. Cultures of sharing and collaboration are leveraging the innovations. Award-winning educational blogger Karl Fisch said it best: We Live in Exponential Times.
While he’s not sure if he originated the line, Fisch, a director of technology in a Colorado High School has made it popular across the web. One of Fisch’s presentations spotlights the recurring theme of education lagging behind innovations:
“Students can’t prepare bark to calculate their problems … What will they do when the slate is dropped and it breaks? They will be unable to write (1703); Students depend too much on ink … Pen and ink will never replace the pencil (1907); Students today depend on these expensive fountain pens … We parents must not allow them to wallow in such luxury to the determent of learning … (1941); We can’t let them use calculators in middle school, they’ll forget how to do long division … what will they do when they don’t have access to a calculator? (1989).”
Businesses weren’t far off those “head in the sand” attitudes. In 1977, Ken Olsen, then CEO of the one of the world’s largest computer companies, Digital Equipment Corporation said “There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home.”
I don’t mean to pick on Mr. Olsen. He proved himself a visionary with the ability to get the best ideas out of people – and implemented. I’m sure he regrets that one statement, but he was turning a blind eye to emerging computer revolution.
On the other hand, the pace of Intel for the last 40 years has been driven by an aggressive prediction in 1965 by co-founder Gordon Moore. Known as Moore’s law, it states that “the number of transistors on a chip will double about every two years.” It was and is what keeps Intel’s pace of innovation high. It forces them to look for new ways to double the transistors on a chip, and counteract the obstacles.
Where are you and your business going? What will you regret having said about the technological and cultural changes?
We do live in exponential times. To use Mr. Fisch’s arguments: There are 31 billion searches on Google every month. In 2006, the number was 2.7 billion.
Perhaps more impressive, it took radio 38 years to reach a market audience of 50 million people. It took television 13 years. It took the iPod three years. It took Facebook two years.
That’s less than 800 days to reach 50 million people.
This begs the question, what are you doing personally and in business? Are you doing anything with all your might that says, “Yes, we live in exponential times and I’m going to grow exponentially!”
Many companies are hedging their bets, adding a person here or there but not dedicated to social media. Clearly social media is the gorilla in the room of innovation. People innovate, not companies. People talk, not companies.
In other words, people are talking about Company X, praising and complaining about them and Company X does nothing – not even listen to the buzz. I recently overheard one manager say “We have phones. They can call us.”
Newsflash: People don’t want to. People don’t have to. People want you to be where they are. On Facebook. On Twitter. On MySpace. On LinkedIn. On YouTube. And if you’re not, your competition will soon be.
I often hear the cost is the objection of moving into the social media realm. Like any sales person knows, objections are frequently smoke screens that mask the real reasons. They are afraid of what others will think, or they just think that this whole Facebook thing is a “young people thing.” It’s not. It’s a PEOPLE thing.
The no-to-low cost of social media allows small companies to gain a footing with larger companies. This is even working for local businesses. Old businesses – including local newspapers – are finding new audiences through Twitter. Small local companies are stretching their reach and selling online. Others are just being creative in monetizing their conversations.
The point is that SOME companies are leveraging the technology to reach across the miles for conversations via cell phone, computer, anywhere, anytime. These same companies are having one-on-one conversations with customers – and maybe your customers. They are adapting and embracing the possibilities of exponential growth.
Computers are moving to a pocket near you. As the mounds of information keeps being created, collaboration and findability are improving. Pocket data is more commonplace, the opportunities open to you are as endless as your imagination.
However, too many companies are playing it safe, barely dipping their toes into the water until their competition jumps in to Lake Social. Instead, they are focusing on finding efficiencies in the business to get them through the economic downturn.
Dr. Peter Drucker, the father of modern management said that “we can say with certainty – or 90% probability – that the new industries that are about to be born will have nothing to do with information.”
He was right. It has nothing to do with information. It has to do with people.
Wayne Kurtzman is a senior marketing analyst who loves the shiny toys of technology and online communities. He has led knowledge management and web analytics practices for startups and larger companies including Intel. Wayne also is active at the international level of Destination ImagiNation, a not-for-profit organization that fosters teamwork, innovation, and creative problem solving skills in students from kindergarten through college.