There are very few people in the world who know how the thing in the picture above actually works. Yet, there are also very few people in the developed world who have not been a major beneficiary, and even a driver of this complex technology. There is not generally a fear of the technology that makes cars do what they do. Instead we embrace the benefits they deliver and use them in every way we can. They changed where we live, how we travel, our leisure patterns, the structure of living spaces and cities, they changed the world more than anything that came before them. They totally transformed our culture.
And it is happening again. A new set of tech tools are providing both fear and opportunity. I wasn’t around when cars became common place, but I imagine there was as much fear of the unknown then, as there is now. There was probably talk of jobs evaporating and the end of economics as we know it. And yet, it was the bellwhether for the greatest period of prosperity in human history. While it’s impossible to know how most anything works these days (division of labour), it’s very easy get behind the power technology provides to win in business. In fact, it’s probably easier to win because fear of the technology is holding so many people back. We don’t need to know how something works, we just need to know that it does. And once we embrace that fact, it will reshape our perspective and quite possibly our fortune.
Many of the economic ideologies we learned in business school are turning upside down. What once worked, now doesn’t. What was expensive, is now cheap. What was impossible, is now humdrum. But unless we stop, consider and look, we just might miss some of these changes in what is true. Capital used to be expensive, and labour used to be cheap. Now it’s moving in the opposite direction. We used to think that the accumulation of capital was the key to success. But we forget it was a substitute to try and uncover intrinsic value. Thankfully we are starting to remember money is a tool, and not an end. Creativity used to be chosen by gatekeepers, now it’s chosen by us through sharing. We got tricked into believing that we should leave creative pursuits to others in the media, in the movies, and to the rock bands with recording contracts. To those who got picked. But now we know that was just because they owned expensive tools and could afford to buy our attention. We’ve now proved there is no monopoly on art, we’re all artists. Technology used to be expensive, and walled behind industrial barriers. We could only experiment with it while ensconced in corporate quarters building things for them as employees. Now we have NASA in our Pocket, maker spaces and collaborative tools to make better tech than those who gave us the tools to do it. The best tech now comes from hacking entrepreneurs because it’s accessible to all now, at disposable price points. The challenge most established businesses face isn’t technology, or ideas but belief systems. They develop a culture that makes them fall in love with what made them successful. It’s why big business is being disrupted after years of relative stability. Sometimes the most important thing ‘Big Co’ can do is forget what they know, and maybe even burn the map that got them to their current destination. New Book – The Great Fragmentation – out now!
I was recently asked by the super clever Future Lab team of LS:N Global to do an interview on a few topics including: The New Australian Consumer, Crowd Finishing or Pre- Hacking (a theme in my book) The Sharing Economy (A former startup I had rentoid.com was early in this space), Reverse Retail, and Innovation via Skunk Works.
While writing up some thoughts in my note pad, I thought it would make a good blog entry. And then I wrote ‘blog this’ on the first page of my notes. And that is exactly what I have done – literally. It will take some interpretation (hand writing, typos, order) as it is just a mind stream of half sentences, but often the unfinished nature of things is what makes them valuable.
New Book – The Great Fragmentation – out now!
If you think your privacy doesn’t matter, then how about you do the following:
- Email me your bank account details and login passwords.
- Remove the blinds and curtains from your house.
- Leave the door open when using the toilet.
- Publish on your Facebook page the links to every website you visit – even those with 18+ year age requirements.
- Tell me how much you get paid and give me the details of your assets and debts.
- Send me a copy of your passport, driver’s license and birth certificate…oh and your mother’s maiden name.
- Share with me your medical records, any medication you take and other details you share with your doctor.
- Share with me all the grades from your school reports.
- Give me copies of all your performance reviews from every employer you’ve ever had.
- Let me hear every conversation you have, even those behind closed doors or with your partner.
- Give me live footage of every angle, in every room in your home.
- Give me a complete record of everything you have ever bought.
While I wouldn’t put any of these things into the shameful or evil criminal category, it’s clear we’d rather keep some things to ourselves. Sure, some of this information needs to be entrusted to other people like doctors, lawyers, accountants, employers and family members, but most of it is not for public consumption. And I haven’t even added what can be deciphered when data points are cross-referenced. But here’s the kicker – most of these are already being tracked by metadata, and many more are about to be by the IoT.
I happened upon this recent talk on the reality of privacy by Glenn Greenwald. He references behaviour from the chiefs of our biggest internet companies; yes, those who make a living our of selling our digital footprints. Many of these CEOs dismiss the right to privacy as a notion either outdated, or something only those with things to hide need worry about. It’s ironic they make a concerted effort to hide their own personal lives. The talk is a mind-opening 20 minutes which proves undeniably that the right to privacy is an issue. Not being concerned about it now will have implications later on when perhaps it is too late.
Not for any reason, privacy is simply a matter of respect for our fellow humans. Don’t let it be something you give away without due consideration of the real trade off.
New book – The Great Fragmentation – out now!
Here’s another 5 things that are worth investing some weekend time postulating life, culture and commerce over.
1. Take the marshmallow test for grown ups. An intriguing look at an old study that was done on kids attitudes in the 1960’s.
2. Hey, just print your next car. More proof 3D printing laughs at the internet as childs play in terms of future global impact. This is the 2nd 3D printed car I’ve seen after the Urbee… Sh*t is gettin’ real.
3. Some timeless advice from 1956. Let Earl Nightingale open your mind to the secrets to happiness and success. The best advice in life does not have an expiration date. This is seminal.
4. Wanna get learned? Get your ears around the Econ talk podcast. My fav’ podcast that I’m not in…. actually I never listen to anything I ever record because that would just be weird and sycophantic.
5. The future of technology – don’t ask me, this pinterest page of a search for ‘technology’ has way more ideas. Read at your leisure…
Have a super weekend people.
There’s a whole lot of tools we have at our disposal which didn’t even exist a few years ago. From a business perspective many of them present a counter intuitive option to the ‘Harvard Industrial Complex’. Yes, those established principals of what we thought we already knew about what worked in the market.
Trust the crowd to co-design our product? Are you crazy?
Get funding from future customers with out giving equity? How we going to do that?
Share revenue with content creating customers? Don’t be silly let’s keep it all for ourselves.
Co-opt with our competitors to grow the entire ecosystem? No way, let’s grow our market share instead.
Launch products with lower margin than those they’ll cannibalise? It’s uneconomic and stupid.
When the world changes, what once seemed ridiculous quickly becomes rational. Startups are now redefining what can work in a world driven by cheap and even disposable technology. It turns out having access to the new tools is not enough, we also need access to a new mindset.
I’ve been publishing a few thoughts for the good people at Pollenizer – two recent articles are below:
History repeats: The seminal article written in 1960 by Theodore Levitt of the Harvard Business School called the Marketing Myopia is having a sequel. I wrote about it here and why startups are eating the lunch of many fortune 500’s.
Why we don’t have to invent the future: Sometimes it is enough just to participate and facilitate – I wrote about the feeder startup here.
In fact just yesterday I was doing a keynote for the financial services industry and I spoke about the GFD, ‘Great Finance Disruption’, which I believe is on the way given the recent developments in crowd funding, micro payments and crypto currencies. And I got asked a question about it.
And this was the question:
There are many banks in the audience, what advice can you give them to keep an eye on these trends in non traditional banking?
And here is my answer:
It’s not about watching from a distance, it’s about getting involved, even in a small way, maybe set up a skunk works or a division for radical finance for dissident customer groups. Instead of watching it or trying to fight it, get involved and even facilitate it. It’s very difficult indeed to shape or benefit from something when you are not participating in it.