“I’m afraid the patient doesn’t have much longer to live,” the doctor said. There is a treatment, but it has some serious adverse effects. The patient responded, “I’ll take it!” What adverse reactions can I expect?” The doctor sighed and said, “Well, primarily cultural change.” Those hierarchies and communication channels that were just so perfectly…
Imagine if I went to my economics teacher in 1987 and explained any one of these seemingly crazy ideas to them:
- I’m going to ask a ton of brilliant authors and historians to donate their time, write factual articles, check each other’s work, and not pay them a penny. Afterwards, I’ll offer their work for free.
- I’m going to have a horde of programmers develop all sorts of programs to make people’s lives easier. Their work will be gratis, and the users don’t have to pay.
- I’m going to move to Memphis, Tennessee, buy 14 airplanes, and compete with the postal service and charge less to deliver faster.
The teacher would ask me when I hit my head and how hard.
If you haven’t already put it together, the aforementioned ideas lead to Wikipedia, Google, and FedEx. They say hindsight is 20/20, so it’s easy to look back and marvel at the successes of innovative pioneers, but do you think these ideas were so critically acclaimed when pitched at their humble beginnings?
Doctor: “I’m afraid the patient is terminal. There is a cure, however, it has some serious side effects”
Patient: “I’ll take it! What are the side effects?”
Doctor: “Well, mainly cultural change. All of those really well-formed hierarchies and communications channels might break down. People might actually talk to each other and there might be cross-functional communication. People may decide to spend some of their time thinking about the future of the company instead of doing their immediate jobs and may come up with creative new ways of doing business or new products. You might change so much that you’ll be a completely new company”
Plenty of companies, like Kodak, Nokia, and Blackberry (previously known as Research in Motion or RIM) weren’t able to change fast enough when disruption came to their markets. In Kodak’s case, the disruption even came from within.
The Future Can Be Awesome
What’s the deal with all of the scary, dystopian futures that we are seeing in popular culture? Why are people thinking that the future is going to be so horrible? Of course, if you look in some directions, you see the power of the state increasing, but in other cases, you see the power of the individual increasing via the use of technology. Is not just a balance, it’s in our favor. As humans.