The internet beyond hoopla

by Mike on May 14, 2013

Social media before Facebook

Social media before Facebook

The internet is rumbling across the economy. A new idea threatens the old ways every single day.

Yeah, yeah – I get it. Net = wow. Yawn. I mean, who hasn’t checked out Google or Twitter or Apple?

But there’s something else happening here.

Some of the biggest changes are quiet and hard to see. It’s the new workflows, the companies that know how to listen to customers, the reduced time to market.

Everyone gawks at the disruption fireworks, but there’s gold lying on the ground.

Massive innovation has happened before. A hundred years ago, Edison enchanted the world with electricity.

Our grandfathers adapted this wizardry to their needs. They moved machinery from the steam-driven pulley shaft to an assembly line layout. They added a second shift with electric lighting. And productivity soared well into the Twenties.

The adjustment will burrow even deeper this time. Business is fundamentally about information. Industry will gradually incorporate core transformation, whether nimble incumbents (Wal-Mart) or new entrants (Amazon).

Narrow improvements matter

Much of this revolution will be in the “long tail” – the thousands of great ideas that hit particular businesses. Think even old-school industries, like car dealerships. The underlying trade hasn’t changed – dealers still sell cars. But under the hood, every function has been reengineered, with tools like mobile sales processes, automated links to indirect lenders, and inventory tracking systems.

Wide innovations are critical, but expertise is rare on the ground

The most intriguing changes affect almost everyone, but they’re difficult to nail down and use well. These wide innovations mainly relate to websites – our common touchpoint in the Internet Age.

The wide innovations can be tricky. Our brains paper over complexity with simpler mental models, but occasionally fail. Some innovations (like speed or analytics) seem different from their reality, so few people take full advantage. These technologies can be widely applied to achieve higher profits, but only if more business people gain a basic understanding.

This blog will mostly focus on the wide innovations. Expect detailed articles to help you hammer these ideas home. Please help out by joining the conversation. Tweet or email me (blog comments will open soon) – let me know where I can go deeper and tell me how you’re applying the wide innovations to your business.

Next post: