How Things Have Changed…or Not!

As we gracefully move into a new decade, I’ve been reading a number of articles looking back over the last 10 years and how things have changed over that time.

Information technology and how we use it has truly transformed peoples lives over the last 10 years. The widespread adoption of the PC, broadband internet and the mobile phone have given people a whole new way to interact with the world.

What surprises (although probably shouldn’t) is how it’s the technology guys that have pushed this change onto traditional industries. For example, Apple (a computer company) revolutionised the music industry, both with the iPod and iTunes downloads, Amazon (an online book retailer) have created the most disruptive piece of technology to the literary world since the invention of the printing press – the kindle. Google (an internet search engine) have developed a brand new open source internet browser, mobile device operating system and computer operating system (among many, many other things).

Out of the few short examples above, it amazes me how the industry leaders of 1999 have let this happen and responded so inadequately. The music industry has spent its time and money suing people who download music thinking that 1 lawsuit will stop 1 million downloaders. Perhaps it could have spent its time looking at how and why people were downloading and how it could capitalise on it, rather than how it was suffering from it.

Similarly, the film industry has been incredibly slow in adopting to new market trends. 10 years ago you had to wait months or years for a film to move from the cinema to video or TV – now it’s weeks or months. Is that all it can manage in 10 years? Let’s see the film industry itself find new ways of satisfying it’s customers by looking at the core aim of the industry, rather than being disgruntled by how other people are changing it. The consumers are changing things because the industry doesn’t.

It’s the same story with book publishers and countless other industries and products. Established players lose perspective and open the door for outsiders to come in and revolutionise their industry. Theodore Levitt wrote a fantastic article in the 1960’s about companies should see themselves in the bigger picture, and orientate themselves towards the customer and their needs, rather than the other way around. For example, oil companies should see themselves as energy companies and should be the biggest investors in renewable energy. For one reason or another, this still doesn’t seem to be happening for many established organisations. I’m not sure why – perhaps the people at the top are complacent, perhaps they’re too stuck in their ways…who knows. What I do know, is that those who can’t see change and adapt to it, will fail.

I’m glad that I’m running a young business that looks at things differently. Perhaps that’s why I look at things this way, or perhaps I run such a business because I look at things this way. Retail is moving online in a big way, and the next decade will see transformation in the way we buy and physically acquire goods and services. I look forward to being a part of that change in some way…and hopefully seeing it coming with enough foresight to adapt to it.

I wish everyone peace and prosperity in the new year.

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