I recently attended the SAS Business Forum where Bruce Upbin,
Forbes’s assistant managing editor, was a panelist. It
was fascinating to hear him talk about innovation and how
companies like Virgin Atlantic and Nokia are launching new services that
will allow them to achieve incremental revenue outside their
traditional business lines.
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Certainly, technology is at the center of these
efforts—everything from being able to use an ATM card to
order food from your seat on a Virgin Atlantic plane to Nokia
adding new gaming, music and other content to its phones.
Upbin also referred to our current market as “fast,
cheap and out of control”—a dramatic, intentionally
provocative phrase, perhaps, but quite accurate when you follow
By “fast” he means the radical increase in
available bandwidth and ubiquitous connectivity to which we are
all (fast) becoming accustomed. You look at how this impacts
our lives both commercial and private and you see how rapidly
the world is becoming a much smaller and much more complex
“Cheap” refers to how certain technologies are
dropping in price while at the same time becoming more
powerful. It also refers to how certain areas of the world are
now able to provide quality far more cheaply than traditional
industrial centers. This no longer applies solely to IT but to
anything that can be sent over a wire. That means everything
from legal advice to HR can now be outsourced.
“Out of control”? Well, if you think
you’re in control of the consumer, then you’re
being naïve. Most of the world’s purchasing power is
now in the hands of a technologically empowered, demanding and
impatient consumer. This fact has been pounded into our heads
by pundits and leaders but it’s remarkable to see how
many businesses are still thinking and acting as if they were
in charge, not the other way around.
My advice to those companies is to take another look at the
world as it is today: fast, cheap, and out of (your) control.
Buckle up, listen to your customer and enjoy the ride.
It’s going to be a crazy and (for those who get it) a