Nancy Munro of Knowledgeshift.com posted a great blog "Technology was Blago's Enemy Again." Although many people watch The Apprentice, I'm not one. Apparently the former governor of Illinois was a contestant, and when he was challenged to lead a project team his lack of technology skills got in the way of effectively doing the job. Although he's a smart lawyer and politician, his tool set had become outdated. A competitive team leader who was very good at texting and other state-of-the-art technologies was able to best Governor Blagojevich's team, and the ex-governor was "fired" by Donald Trump from the show.
On the surface, this is a funny story. But Nancy points out how it reflects the very real issues of using technology when competing. All businesses compete every day. Those that learn to use new technologies are able to get more done, faster and more effectively. Those who fall into a routine of doing things the same way, and don't advance their tool set, run the risk of being knocked out of the competition. Mr. Blagojevich's inability to use modern technology killed his chances of winning the competition.
Will you, or your business, go to any trade shows or conferences this year? Probably. But you'll limit attendance because you're still worried about financial performance. How will you select where you go? Probably by attending the ones most closely associated with your industry or business. But think about it, are those the ones that will be most valuable? You'll probably mostly hear what you already know, and reinforce your existing beliefs about the business. Is that really an effective spend?
Instead, shouldn't you use the funds to learn about what you don't know? Like how to be a world-class social marketer? This is an amazingly fast growing area where early adopters are gaining new sales. For example, Guy Kawasaki and the world's leaders in social marketing will be talking about how to get sales and profits from Twitter and Facebook at something called "The Smartbrief Social Media Success Summit." I'm not a shill for the conference (I'm not even speaking there), but this kind of event offers the very real opportunity of learning something you don't know – rather than reinforcing old Lock-ins and keeping you doing what you've always done.
Have you purchased a Kindle or iPad yet? If not, how do you know what they can or can't do? At SeekingAlpha.com "Thoughts on the iPad" offers one person's reflection on what the iPad does well, and doesn't, and where it might evolve – as well as how it compares to the Kindle. These devices are selling in the millions – so are you and your business thinking about how to use one to help sell more products or make more money? Yahoo and Google are both launching ad models for iPad (see Mediapost.com "Yahoo Readies Launch of Online Advertising Model"). Are you considering using this media to reach new customers? Have you considered how one of these products embedded in what you sell might offer you a competitive advantage? If you and your colleagues haven't tried one, experimented, how would you know?
Our businesses rarely get into trouble from something we know well. It's what we don't know, what we ignore, that gets us in trouble. Like Craigslist.com wiping out newspaper classified ads. The newspapers didn't even see it coming. On the other hand, if they had investigated and used Craigslist they could have prepared, and maybe even developed a competitive on-line product to grow new revenues!
It's incumbent upon us to constantly expand into new markets. We have to constantly keep White Space alive where we use resources to experiment in areas outside traditional permission. It's easy to keep throwing all our resources into what we know, but in the end, it's what we don't know that will knock us out of the game – like poor Blago.