The Dark Valley and The Reinvention of the World
The big issue for any industry facing disruption is not forecasting the future… it is making difficult decisions in light of a clear and inevitable future.
Because the future is not a mystery. It is for the most part simply a continuation of the past; a clearly visible trend line stretching from our past. The future is a series of first principles relentlessly reshuffling the same deck of cards. In my field here are those first principles. I have written about these in depth so I won’t belabour the point in this post.
- More digitisation. Everything that can be digital will be digital.
- More connectivity. Everything (people and things) that can be connected, will be connected.
- More mobility. Mobile computing will reach total ubiquity; people connected at all times to all things around them.
- More sociality. The operating norms of communications will be forced to conform to the social contract as everyday voices crowd out stagnant forms of business communications.
Each of these trends disrupts the end-to-end model of industrial business – from business strategy to the very modes of production of goods and services.
I have used the term “The Dark Valley” to speak about the path that many organisations must walk through in order to get to “the other side” of this disruption; the existential choices necessary to navigate through disruption and make it to a profitable future.
The Dark Valley is often an “ impossible” choice. The strategic plan that dare not speak its name in board rooms or analyst briefings. It is the newspaper business in the early 2000′s that simply could not kill off print (70% of its costs)… It is the music business deciding to sue against piracy rather than rethink distribution, convenience of access and cost structure for music. The list goes on as industry after industry faces the inevitable consequence of more digitisation, connectivity, mobility and sociality (to name a few of the ones I focus on).
The prophets who foretold these futures (and there were many) simply couldn’t make it to the board room.
And herein lies the interesting part. Can large institutions make it through The Dark Valley? Getting through the Dark Valley is critical because it is not just newspapers and the entertainment industry. What we are experiencing in terms of disruption is only the first of a long salvo as digital technologies liquidate old forms of value-creation and democratise the means of production.
In this future we are all headed towards our own Dark Valley. Getting through it has little to do with future-gazing. It has everything to do with the will to change, the structural agility to adapt and a form of leadership willing to hear and speak hard truths.
For more on The Dark Valley see my post from 2009 on why the news industry didn’t need any more advice.