Business As Unusual
Today I was talking to some media clients, who – like almost all our media clients – are focused on figuring out how to operate in the space where TV and interactive/digital/ new media (call it what you will) overlap. We’re supporting them to envision a future business quite different from the one they’re operating now — and almost completely different from the one they were operating fifteen years ago!
It’s one of the most difficult things, I think, for organizations to come up against: their core business changing out from under them. There’s a wide variety of possible responses, few of them useful.
For instance, think about the whole complex of organizations that supported the horse as a mode of transportation in the early twentieth century: stables, horse breeders and sellers, carriage builders, makers of tack and whips, etc. etc. As automobiles started to become more common, what did all those people do? Well, some of them saw the writing on the wall, and gradually switched their businesses to the analogous new businesses: from building carriages to building cars; from making tack and whips to making driving gloves and leather seats. Some people, though, resisted the idea that their business was going the way of the dinosaur, and thought they could succeed by just becoming the very best at what they did…breed the fastest horses, make the most modern coaches. And some people even fought actively aginst the new: in England, for instance, the horse-and-carriage lobby passed a law around the beginning of the 20th century requiring that a man walk in front of each car as it drove, waving a red flag! (People began to ignore it almost immediately.)
I’m sure you can draw the parallels: all around us, organizations are denying the seismic changes brought by technology, or actively fighting aginst those changes that threaten their traditional businesses. Only some are trying to figure out how to transition and/or incorporate the new into their existing businesses.
Those are the organizations – and individuals – that will continue to thrive and prosper.
In the words of George Santayana,”Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Let’s reflect on the successes of those left standing after previous changes, and follow their example.