The future is a pesky little thing to predict. Much of it will surprise us no matter how well versed we are in emerging technology. A lot will change 10 years from now in ways we just couldn’t imagine. But, some things won’t change, and it is easy to know what these things are. So much so that this is a key question Amazon leader Jeff Bezos bases large parts of business strategy on:
“What’s not going to change in the next 10 years?…. You can build a business strategy around the things that are stable in time…. In our retail business, we know that our customers want low prices, and I know that’s going to be true 10 years from now. They want fast delivery; they want a vast selection. It’s impossible to imagine a future 10 years from now where a customer comes up and says; ‘Jeff, I love Amazon; I just wish the prices were a little higher’ [or] ‘I love Amazon; I just wish you’d deliver a little more slowly.’ Impossible.”
And it is clear to see that while they use technology to make these things possible, the future is predictable and something Amazon or any business can build their strategy and infrastructure around. Jeff said this 4 years ago at the Amazon Web Services forum. With 40% of that 10 year window expired, and I’d say it’s all still true. Seems he has predicted the future, just by flipping the question.
So the only question remaining for your business or startup is this: What things can you be working on that just won’t change?
One of my totally favourite projects is working with Pollenizer getting startups off the ground and doing corporate venturing. The biggest challenge many entrepreneurs and pretty much every big company trying to get internal startups going is understanding why small is beautiful. Unless the initial business is small enough to test, weird enough to get attention, and easy enough to try in an analogue fashion, then we’ll never get off the ground. We need to think #antiMASSIVE first.
The business we are in is the problems we solve, not the product we sell. During times of great technological upheaval, problems get solved in new and unexpected ways. This is how companies get disrupted. The single way to ensure any business remains valid is this:
We must always love our customer more than we love our infrastructure.
If we truly do this, then we’ll be able to endure the pain required during the inevitable transition.
My readers know that I love technology – I literally rub my face in it.
But technology is not always the answer. Sometimes it pays to resist the use of it. This is especially true when technology lacks differentiation or is the lazy option. A hand written letter has far more value today than an email, tweet or whatsapp message does. We know you care more, we know you made more of a concerted effort with a pen and a post box.
It comes down to swimming against the tide. Music is one industry that has been impacted incredibly by new technology. Every laptop is a world class studio, opening up the music making to everyone regardless of their budget. But prized musician David Byrne (of Talking Heads fame) has some interesting views on why this might not be the answer to make great music. Watch the video below, and think about the work you do and how it applies. If you listen close enough you’ll come up with some new anti-tech ways to both make a difference and a better product. Enjoy!
The internet is filled with How To advice. Which proves how important it is in building the life you want. But it has a simple flaw we ought remember:
How to advice is disposable.
How to’s are a set of tactics which need to change as the world around us changes. This means we need to constantly re-assess what we know, and ask if it is still relevant. With the pace of technological change today, this is a question we need at the top of our list.
This is why philosophy is always greater than tactics. Philosophy is enduring, and tactics and temporary. If we have a guiding philosophy on what we are doing and why, finding the best tactic for the day becomes infinitely easier.