Q. What do librarians, box office attendants, and local weather stations have in common? A. Each in its own way, is being edged-out by technological innovation.
Over the past number of years, the role of librarians has been minimized, modified, and made over as a result of the changing ways in which people access the written word—thanks primarily, to Amazon. Things have changed for box office attendants too. For instance, when was the last time you elected to wait in line at the theater to buy your movie tickets? Probably not since you downloaded Fandango. And do you remember having to make a telephone call to your local weather station’s automated machine to learn the temperature outside? I’m guessing it’s been a while, with Siri, mobile apps, and all.
FEAR OF BEING PUSHED OUT BY TECHNOLOGY:
Life, with technology, has become quite different, and for most, the threat of what may become obsolete as new innovations emerge is a scary thought to consider. After all, a business [or business model] is fundamentally nothing more than a process for managing or leveraging the conditions of a present time. And given the speed at which technology is advancing, the risk for change is ever more likely.
So if conditions do indeed change, then it’s reasonable to expect that the business must also change in order to preserve its value proposition. However, change isn’t always an option or a solution. While it may sound a bit defeatist, sometimes the goldilocks conditions which initially presented the business with an opportunity are simply and forever gone, leaving it with no alternative but to scale back, do something else, or pass away altogether.
So sure, a scenario such as this is in fact a scary thought to consider; it’ll keep you up at night, worrying about some newfangled marvel showing up at your front doorstep one glum morning to take away your business. Scary though as it may be, worrying about whether or not it will happen to you isn’t necessarily the most productive use of your time or energy.
THE HISTORY OF TECHNOLOGICAL RESISTANCE:
Consider the popularized history of Luddites, for instance. As the Industrial Revolution was sweeping Europe, modern machinery, such as the stocking frame, power loom, and spinning frame, was developed to generate greater efficiency [and profitability] in textile factories.
However, the highly-talented, textile artisans (i.e., the Luddites), threatened by the notion of being marginalized and replaced with lesser skilled, low-wage laborers as a result of the installation of these innovative contraptions, protested—they burned and destroyed the machines in an act of defiance and in the spirit of preserving their position. Despite, however, the Luddites’ best efforts to resist the change, progress did as progress does.
SOME ADVICE TO FOCUS ON THE FORESEEABLE:
So again, worrying about whether or not you’ll be affected by technological innovation, or better yet, trying to predict how it might subvert your business is, arguably, futile. There’s simply no way of knowing [at least not for certain] or not much to be done about it—because progress is what progress does.
During a recent interview with Business Insider, Jeff Bezos, Founder and CEO of Amazon, proposed that:
“If you want to build a successful, sustainable business, don’t ask yourself what could change in the next ten years that could affect your company. Instead, ask yourself what won’t change, and then put all your energy and effort into those things.”
Bezos’ point was that one is better off focusing his or her attention and resources on those conditions which are fixed—anchored down to withstand whatever technological innovation the future may reveal. He mentioned, for example, the extreme unlikelihood that customers will ever prefer anything other than the lowest price. And if that’s the case now and forevermore, then one can feel confident about investing in such an idea for the long term. Along those same lines, I’d add that customers will always, for instance:
- Desire for things to be made simpler;
- Be striving toward autonomy;
- Loath the thought of being sold;
- Evade the middleman;
- Look to consolidate systems and processes;
- Have a need for expertise and guidance;
- Want access to the right information;
- Question whether a product or service is sufficiently valuable.
A SIMPLE AND OBVIOUS STRATEGY:
It’s interesting to me that Bezos’ recommendation to, for example, focus on the fact that customers will probably always prefer the lowest price doesn’t correspond diametrically to the threat of technological innovation. How, exactly, does knowing a customer will always want to pay less match up with future hardware or software? I suppose it doesn’t… not directly, anyway.
However, like a business, new technologies are also only responding to and leveraging a present set of conditions. If one can recognize the conditions which won’t change, such as customers wanting the best deal, then one is positioned to square with whatever innovations may come along.
So whatever the future may hold, the rapid pace of change within the modern business landscape seems to have caused a bit of panic, I’ve noticed. We appear to have become preoccupied with asking ourselves questions we cannot answer. So instead of brooding over what we think could or couldn’t happen, it seems more reasonable to pay attention to what we know will or won’t happen. Perhaps the obvious key to guiding our businesses into the future is simply to focus on the foreseeable—to identify the constants and direct our energy and resources accordingly.
So what conditions exist today and will likely continue to exist around which you can build your business?
Photo by Mark Fugarino
Jason guides real estate professionals through current and emerging trends in consumer behavior, sales and marketing, and entrepreneurship. To invite Jason to speak or to schedule a consultation, visit: www.JasonPantana.com/Contact