Thursday, December 29, 2011

Six Two-Word Terms for the Future

This cleaning out your desk thing turns out to be incredibly worthwhile!
You get to throw away pounds of paper that have been sitting there for years.
And you get to re-visit things that turn out to be interesting--if for no other reason than that they have historical value.
Take my notes from a speech I gave to EDS in May of 1992.

The premise of my talk was the arrival of a "new economy." I started out by summarizing the headlines of the day (think back to 1992--if you were alive back then!): the agony of IBM, the triumph of the Japanese auto industry, the diminishing power of the three big TV networks, the collapse of the U.S. labor movement, the marketing miracle of Nike, the market power of Intel. It spelled what I called then "the Great Divide"--the split between the old order and the new economy, the rise of global competition, technological innovation, the new workforce, and the new workplace. All of it added up to a gaping economic fault line between the old-line bureaucratic companies and the companies and managers of the future. Those who are stuck in obsolete organizational structure and competitive concepts, and those who are busy inventing new ways to compete.

Some companies were responding by focusing on what I called "table stakes"--four things they needed to do just to stay relevant: attention to quality; emphasis on customer choice and a new variety of offerings; improved customer service; and worker empowerment/flat organizations/teams.
Table stakes. Nothing distinctive there. Things you had to do (and still have to do) just to show that you get it.

But then there was "the new agenda"--six two-word terms that I said would define the future.
First, Latent Competitors. You may know how your traditional competitor was. But do you know who your new, unexpected competitor will be--or where that competitor will come from?
Second, Techno-Fusion. The old version of R&D relied on straight-ahead breakthrough. The new version demands a blending of technologies and fields, biology and physics, nutrition and health, neuro-science and economics: I didn't cite it then (because it hadn't appeared yet) but think of quantum computing as an example today.
Third, Smart Products. Products that tell you where they are, what they are doing, when they need servicing. Products that link with other products to do the work for you.
Fourth, ∫. Business transactions and experiences shift from one-way communication to interactive communication: interactive TV, in-store ordering and customization. They were big back then, before the web made everything inter-active.
Fifth, Real Time. The goal is to make everything happen in real time. Speed is money, speed is quality, speed is customer satisfaction, speed is productivity, speed is strategy.
Sixth, Systems Capability. The company is a system--get all the processes right, you deliver the product right. The system is the solution.

The bottom line I came to in that old speech, given all those years ago: "Keep learning new skills and crossing old boundaries."
Sounds like good advice to me, almost 20 years later.

All Rights Reserved 2009 (c) Alan Webber, Rules Of Thumb