In Catastrophe 1914: Europe Goes To War, Max Hastings tells the story of the clash of modern war technology (machine gun) meets the warfare of the previous century, cavalry charges, colorful (target) uniforms, and the ego, misinformation, stupidity, and ego that commanders could have when battles took months to set up, and soldiers could have a whole career without having to face an enemy.
As the war to end all wars began, the commanders couldn’t understand what was happening to them.
Reminds me of the story of the broke down old fighter, who, when he went to his corner between rounds, his trainer said, “Keep it up, champ. This palooka can’t lay a hand on you!”
To which the boxer replied, “Then watch the ref closely. Somebody’s beating the heck out of me.”
Those WWI generals not could comprehend what was happening to them, their losses, that their professional beliefs no longer had any value. Everything they knew was no longer true, and following their cherished (and unrealistic) worldview they had started the bloodiest war in the history of the world.
So they executed seven year old kids, shot their own troops, anything to feel like they had some control over what was happening around them. It took some time for the next generation of commanders to get an understanding of what was happening and figure out how to respond.
The understanding and then inventing new solutions took place while thousands of soldiers and horses were being killed each week.
Reading the book, I realized that the Internet is our machine gun. It has completely changed how work is delivered.
I was talking to a thirty year client in Northern California who has recently started his blog and is pleasantly surprised by the results. He wondered if I would be available to talk to him on the phone. I suggest a Hangout video-conference, since he has Gmail. and started to explain what it was.
He was quite familiar as he works with a client in Thailand and they do their communication with Hangouts.
Just like machine guns changed the uniforms, the staging, the management, technology, and leadership of war, the Internet is changing what makes a viable organization, how we accomplish work.
That client (an Aikido Master), has video conferences across half the globe. Value is no longer in touch, in showing, in throwing, but doing other things to create similar results with more people across a global footprint.
People in charge used to be able to say, “Take a number and wait...we’ll get to you as soon as we can.”
Google and Amazon changed that paradigm.
You want information? The hardest part is figuring the right question to ask. The answer is instantaneous. That’s the new baseline, what people expect. You’re not set up to provide that? Your successor will.
You want to buy a solution? You teach yourself what you want by looking at the results offered. I have a story about that.
Several years ago we took our condo down to the bare walls and rebuilt. New floor plan, tripled the electric service, community steam room, and a host of other improvements.
The woman I love said she wanted her first flat screen TV to be white, to match her white walls.
After we were flimflammed at Best Buy, I sat for three hours, with a laptop in my lap in a cold basement communing with Amazon. I learned the right size of the TV for the size of the room, the best way to hang a flat screen off a wall, how to get the cable installed (Yup, first flat screen and first cable), and at the end, I had a pad of notes. A balloon came up, “Would you like to order this TV with one click ordering?”
Let’s see, I couldn’t buy it from a store, it probably wouldn’t fit in my car, and if the boss didn’t like it, Amazon would cheerfully take it back. Are you kidding?
Turned out it was the wrong TV. But the next one hangs on the wall as a benefit of my embracing the new order.
A friend who has an advertising agency once said, “You’re not an early adopter, you’re a reluctant adopter.”
But the fact is the game is changing more and more quickly. I don’t want to be one of those guys who say, “The older I get, the better I was.” Better to have a current contribution.
What are you doing to embrace the new?
Digital Disruption In The Public Sector: Making the Agency of the Future a Reality Today, December 10, 8:30 – 11:30 am, Washington DC, Free, reservations required, features some of the people who are on the front lines delivering next generation services to citizens. Come see what good is.