Danny Boyle is a film director & producer and a very great story teller as his Slumdog Millionaire movie demonstrated. As Artistic Director of the 2012 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony, Isles of Wonder, he told the story of the creation of contemporary Britain through a series of transforming landscapes, both actual and metaphysical.
He started with an impressive physical transformation of the landscape that first greeted his audience in the Olympic Arena. One moment an expression of the rural idyll, green fields, ploughing horses, sheep, ducks, clean-faced farmhands, cricket on the village green…: the next moment the steam roller of the industrial revolution, great smoking chimneys, collieries, begrimed factory hands, and the flow of white hot molten iron being cast & hammered in great showers of sparks into one of the five Olympic rings.
But he then yet further re-worked that landscape in more radical fashions, using metaphor, analogy and play to bring to life deep insights into the formation of what we now know as our country in the broadest sense – through highly innovative devices demonstrating, as examples, our arts culture revolutionised by diversity & youth (Dizzee Rascal) , our historical tendencies to class deference softened (the Queen in action with James Bond – Queen Victoria would surely not have been amused!) and the long established symbol of the Olympic cauldron totally reconceptualised as a gathering together of a myriad of individual petals thrusting upwards and gathering together (diversity and flexibility replacing the monolithic).
In a way, Danny Boyle was pushing on an open door. We know just how radically the landscapes of our lives have been changing, especially over the most recent decades. In the context of our ICT industry, we know just what a significant contribution technological innovation has made to the melange of factors reworking these landscapes (as our marketing brethren delight in an endlessly reminding the world!).
And yet there seems little real understanding or acceptance in the heart of the leadership of much of our industry just how radically our own business landscapes are now being transformed. The impact of virtualisation is enabling a very high degree of automation in the operation of our technologies, in turn enabling their expression in a fast growing diversity of highly automated services. Whole swathes of long established bums-on-seats operations (and their associated business-sustaining cash flows) are under threat of being competitively automated out of existence. Our new aristocracy are those whose deep expertise lies in delivering the automated (the service factories and their integrated networks): and those whose deep expertise lies in delivering specialised service integration (precision tuning of bundles of virtual services to the very specific requirements of particular markets).
The business model of systems integration is now at death’s door, doomed by its expensive bums-on-seats finances and monolithic complexities. It is being challenged by the rapidly flowering business model of services integration, rooted in a whole new flora of automated services. On the one hand the historic, monolithic and inflexible Olympic cauldron: on the other the gathering together of myriads of individual petals thrusting upwards to gather flexibly together to deliver new unities from their great diversities.
Truth be told, our business landscape is being transformed in as radical a fashion as anything articulated by Danny Boyle in the Olympic arena!
This discipline of services is a new one for our industry. On holiday in the depths France this year I tackled a recently published volume ‘This is Service Design Thinking’ , a vade mecum to how best to exploit this transformative force.
One discipline of service design is that it grows from the vantage point of the user, the consumer of the service. Our industry’s deeply established shibboleth of ‘Technology Drivers’ has to be abandoned – in the pithy eighty-year old observation of the Hungarian artist and Bahaus Professor, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, ‘technical progress should never be the goal, only the means’.
In the equally insightful analysis of 31Volts (a young service design agency based in the Netherlands) ‘When you have two coffee shops right next to each other, and each sells exactly the same coffee and at the exact same price, service design is what makes you walk into one and not the other’.
Here is the potential for a new business value- delivering engagement of our over-techie industry with the wider creative industries. We need to pull back from the work of the PR and marketing folk (the answer is ‘the Cloud/Big Data’ – now what was the question?). Instead we need to seek out the Danny Boyles, the tellers of stories, the articulators of metaphor, analogy and play, to help us grasp the full significance of the radical transformations of our business landscapes now in progress: and then work to gain confidence in how we best move to navigate this new.