In Maine if you stop for directions once in a while you get “you can’t get there from here“. Some people react in anger, but if you “get” what they say, you probably just shrug or smile. To get from one place to another you need to visualize a path. With new technology I get the same thing almost every day. People in marketing and media tell me “you can’t do that!” they say it with such conviction. Before using social network a product manager was getting customers the old fashion way, driving to their offices and getting a meeting with presentations and a kind of “oh well your idea is fantastic, we are going to talk about it the next meeting.” Most times he would get follow-up meeting in coffee shops and the executives buying the service would say something like: “well, next time I need this I will give you a call”. No one has ever called, it’s been a year an a half. So I pushed him to start sending e-Mail, Linked-In, Twitter, Blog and FaceBook invitations to try the service for free. The trial version does not do anything. Just gives a nice report with bars that go up and down. The first month he got 350+ “testers” he calls it. Three people want to sell the product and a few people are ready to buy and pay money. He is not ready to change money, the product is not ready yet, next quarter or in six months it will be ready.
Back to Maine. I do not mean to use Maine but this is how I heard it in Massachusetts, these people have not been getting along for four centuries. A couple (from Mass, NY, pick your state) in a car stop and ask for directions from a couple walking by a road. The local couple knows exactly where the lost driver needs to go. After thinking for a while and discussing the options they say: “you can’t get there from here”. Basically you first need to go to Augusta (the state capital.) From there you can get to anywhere in Maine.
In social media you seem to need to go back to the brochure or the package or the Power Point presentation. Then you can blog or tweet. It just does not work this way in real life. BUT IN OUR HEAD IT WORKS EXACTLY THAT WAY. Seth Godin calls it the “lizard brain”. I think that his sarcasm turns off more people than it helps. The Maine driving analogy is a little simpler, and when I worked with people from Maine it was clear that they joke about the “lizard brain” but still use it in a serious way. In technology people don’t “get” you all the time. New ideas which change how you need to explain things to yourself make us reject them at first. Only a very small group amongst us wants to tinker and try and make things work. These people are not good at all at explaining how things work. They are the entrepreneurs who go begging for money from venture capital firm partners who usually do not understand the revolution bubbling inside the entrepreneur’s brain, but once in a while they “get” that something big is going to happen.
It seems like in social networking the same problem exists. If you are marketing, selling, supporting or managing “the old fashion way” (i.e without social networking) you can’t introduce it to what you are doing. People use the term “game changing technology” or “inflection point” (attributed to Andrew Grove from Intel.) I would not be too worried about the old school marketers and product managers. Like every big change they will slowly go away. Some will make lots of noise. The print industry from book printers all the way to publishers are making lots of noise. All the fracas between Amazon and big publishers was funny to watch. On the front page of Amazon they are selling the Kindle2 like crazy. They are getting competition from Apple, Sony, HP and about 20 other Korean, Japanese and Chinese hardware manufacturers. In the mean time, book publishers want to “set their own prices”. It was funny to watch Amazon actually taking off some publishers from their pages. As if Amazon is to blame. Notice that Amazon just lost the MP3 music AND audio book biz to Apple ! ! As if a book publisher with a strong hold of editors and writers can call the shots at Apple or Sony. My father says that everyone gets to puff his chest for a few years in their life. It’s like Andy Warhol’s saying that everyone if famous for 15 minutes. McGraw-Hill the publisher is puffing it’s chest, Apple has been puffed since the iPod, Amazon is puffing and shrinking, they are in the middle. Changes and innovation comes from different places and keeps on moving around. The music world does not want to change licensing and rights management (how musicians are paid) so they lost the whole business to MySpace where musicians put up songs for free. There is so much free stuff out there, people are simply not going to pay for a CD in MP3 format. Oh well… THANKS 4 READING, ami