Neil Peart passed away this last week. Just 67 years young. Brain Cancer. A very human musician working in an increasingly digital industry proving that we are a long long way from ‘everything can be digitized’. You might not have read this short article on Inc about Peart. Well worth it.
And on that same day, a blog post from Constellation Research popped into my stream. A blog post that is the antithesis of Peart.
Companies need to decide whether they want to join the club of digital innovators and adopt Silicon Valley style thinking and culture or whether they're okay staying where they are.
Chris Keene, Gigster CEO ( How the Gig Economy is Transforming Work in the Enterprise)
Seriously - those are the only two options? Stay still - or ‘adopt Silicon Valley style thinking and culture’. What could possibly go wrong?
"Never follow anyone. Be your own hero."
I was reminded of a recent conversation with the CEO of a healthcare company (important to note, this was not a US healthcare company). He observed that …
The single biggest differentiator between companies from America and other parts of the world is that the American companies know how to scale, the 'rest of us' build relationships.
Ouch. But I think more specifics are needed and it’s even worse.
Back in the late 70s, a little company called Oracle started work on RDBMS software. They weren't alone. Ingres, Sybase and Informix all came out with 'Enterprise RDBMS' software. People in the street today might recognize the name Oracle, but at one time it was far from clear which one of the four was going to emerge the winner. Interesting fact: All four companies were started and based within
of each other in
Talking of which so were major CRM companies of the 90s ... Siebel (bought by Oracle), Vantive (bought by Peoplesoft bought by Oracle) and Scopus (bought by Siebel bought by Oracle). Today the CRM gorilla on the block is Salesforce - founded by Marc Benioff - an Oracle alumni and one of the first investors - Larry Ellison (who still owns 25% of Oracle) ... you get the picture.
CRM (Customer ‘Relationship’ Management) supposedly allows any company to ‘better manage its relationship with customers’ … provided that you see a ‘relationship’ as tens of thousands of transactions because based on that data, the system tracks the ‘health and wealth of your relationship’ and even will provide a handy dandy little dashboard for you, to ‘check things at a glance’.
Do you have a system to manage your relationship with your partner, children, parents? Thought not. It’s as if Silicon Valley wants us to view
“all human activity as transactional and capable of being calculated by computer.”
… Douglas Rushkof, Team Human.
Carole Cadwalladr references ‘the gods of Silicon Valley’ in her 2019 Ted Talk. She was talking specifically about the roles of Twitter, Google and Facebook (all Silicon Valley companies) in their role in ‘destroying’ democracy … and suggested that they are ‘on the wrong side of history’. I would take it further.
Our blind following and adoption of the Silicon Valley mantra
growth at all costs is the only way to win
real success only comes through ‘disruptive innovation’
all while attempting to destroy perfectly good businesses through massive capital injection to support subsidized sales and legal cases is not just on the ‘wrong side of history’ it is just wrong. But here’s the thing. It’s working not because of what Silicon Valley is doing but because ‘we the people’ accept it, buy into it and on occasions even try to replicate it.
It’s so much better. It’s so fast. It’s so cheap. It’s so convenient.
Going back to Chris Keen’s quote there not only has to be a better way. There is - and you don’t have to look too far to find it. Look around and you will find successful businesses all over - that great baker, the electrical store, the travel agent (yes they still exist) … that brings humanity back into the picture. Businesses that do not seek to take out every other business in their space as they seek to expand globally. Businesses that use computers and software - but as a tool, not as the raison d'être of their company. And use their humanity to differentiate and add value to what they provide.
If you are one of those businesses - keep doing what you are doing. If you are human then you are a potential customer. Why not become an actual customer?
It’s not too late. It’s not too soon. You can do it.
Simply by sailing in a new direction
You could enlarge the world.
You picked your captain,
Keen on discoveries, tough enough to make them,
Whatever vessels could be spared from other
More urgent service for a year's adventure;
Took stock of the more probable conjectures
About the Unknown to be traversed, all
Guesses at golden coasts and tales of monsters
To be digested into plain instructions
For likely and unlikely situations.
All this resolved and done, you launched the whole
On a fine morning, the best time of year,
Skies widening and the oceanic furies
Subdued by summer illumination; time
To go and be gazed at going
On a fine morning, in the Name of God
Into the nameless waters of the world.
… Allen Curnow
As promised last week, I am moving the newsletter back into more specific People First subject matter and also introducing a small aid to help connect each newsletter to the 8 pillars of People First. My thanks for your continued support and attention. Please do like the post, share through your social channels of choice and forward the email to colleagues, friends and family that want to join us on this journey. I truly appreciate all of your support and all your comments (positive and negative).