Lew Schneider lives on in my mind, and the minds of my people, and he is most encapsulated in Rule #86. He is still relevant and he is still very important.
Well, the shanachie was displaced by a bunch of folks who produced tomes of wisdom by the bucket load. Out of the Crisis, In Search of Excellence, Good to Great, My Years with General Motors. All this was really good stuff and entirely relevant. And, for a time, people read this stuff.
Marshall McLuhan said that the “medium is the message.” What if the medium is pretty much obsolete? How do I reach you? Perhaps the greatest business book ever written was Out of the Crisis, by Deming. How do I get you to read 492 pages of Out of the Crisis? Unless I force you into an academic environment, I don’t. The world has changed and, in this instance, probably forever. Out of the Crisis is a lot like RIM and BlackBerry. Rule #86: Error of omission – people don’t read 492 pages of heavy text on their iPhone.
There’s lots of stuff we need to un-learn. Amazon un-learned that books had to be made of paper. Blockbuster never un-learned that movies needed to fit on a DVD and be fetched at a store. Netflix needed to un-learn that it was a monopoly and that Amazon could spoil their market with a trick to sell merchandise freight-free. RIM needed to un-learn that it, too, was a monopoly. We make a huge time and emotional investment in what we learn, and we hold on to pseudo-knowledge way too long.
Rule #7: The best learners are un-learners poked its head up for me in the summer of 2011. We found out that we had to un-learn how we thought people learn. My firm hosted a set of focus groups that tapped into the automotive service buying and learning attitudes of the digital generation. This group is fast-growing, sort of like the Ebola virus. We call them digital service customers (DSCs). In 2010, they represented about 33% of the population; in 2011, they had grown to over 60%. Young, 20-40 years old, college educated, good jobs, no savings, smart with money. The American Dream is a light year away and irrelevant to them. We asked what they read. It was immediately apparent that paper was obsolete. What surprised us was that laptops, too, seemed to be headed towards irrelevancy. Remember McLuhan – the medium is the message. The learning medium for the DSC is their mobile device, and the messages that stick are ones that have best adapted to this technology. If a message is stuck in paper medium, it won’t sell. If it needs a laptop, it will suffer the same fate as iGoogle and RIM – obscurity, then death.
Hmmm. These DSCs might be a problem for lots of us. Maybe, I’m one of them?
If the medium is the message, then what’s the message here? Simple. Messages need to be short and riveting. They need to be separable. If you devote five minutes to a message, it must be easy to pick up where you left off. Think short stories instead of a novel. Messages compete with other messages and other activities. If your message is boring, it will be displaced by a session with Angry Birds.
Bottom Line: We need to make sure that the “media” we choose can deliver the “messages” we want. First, we need to make sure that we choose the media that people use, and not to underestimate the challenge of this. The implications of this stretch to our internal training and to our consumer merchandising and advertising. We need to un-learn our absolute conviction that we are headed down the right path. We might not be. Just think of RIM.