We always overestimate the change to come in the next two years …
Some time ago I pointed out that, paradoxically, the dynamism of the digital world could be a factor of inertia in companies. Which materializes through different behaviors.
• Since things change all the time, it doesn’t matter if we miss this train, we’ll take the next one.
• More “fear marketing”. We are made to believe that a tsunami is coming over us to sell us something and, in the end, we realize that the tsunami was just a wave and did not change much.
And we cannot prove them wrong.
Visionaries always have great ideas, but they often get them too early.
A few months ago I attended in Paris the dinner of ” Digital pioneers“. A very pleasant meal or some big names of the internet before 2000, those who lived through the 1st bubble, told how they had set up their startup at the time and how for a certain number of them, the beautiful dream had ended badly. There was, in their stories, a form of constant: they had all understood the potential of the internet but had overestimated the impact in the short to medium term even if the long term proved them right. For example, inventing an online wallet was a great idea. The Paypal proof is a real success. But in 1996 when e-commerce did not exist and would take more than 10 years to finally take off, it was doomed to failure.
And we can cite a host of examples of products or services that have failed because they arrived too early. Certainly those who launched them may regret seeing, today, similar things meet with great success because they were launched 5 to 10 years later, once the market was ripe. We will never know, on the other hand, if by evangelizing the market they did not themselves create the conditions for the success of the entrepreneurs of the 2nd or the 3rd wave while digging their own grave.
Which reminds me of this quote from Bill Gates:
” THE CHANGE TO COME IN TWO YEARS IS ALWAYS OVERESTIMATED, AND THE CHANGE IN THE NEXT TEN YEARS IS UNDERESTIMATED.
DON’T LET YOURSELF BE LOCKED BY INACTION ”.
The short-term impact of the internet was overestimated in the 90s. I still remember the post-bubble era in 2001 when I heard recruiters say to me “but the internet is over, the bubble exploded. , we have to move on ”. We know what happened to it …
Then we overestimated that of e-commerce. Then that of the mobile. Then that of the new generations on the company. I think we are also making a huge film with data and artificial intelligence. Why ? I will cite two reasons which are not exhaustive but suffice to explain the matter.
It is not the visionary who makes the market but the maturity of the client
• There are visionaries, people who feel the power of things long before others and who ride the wave from birth. But until the market gets it, as long as their vision isn’t shared by a critical mass of customers, as the planets aren’t aligned, it doesn’t take off. It is difficult to have a vision, to see a project in a dream and to sit on your dream and think that it is too early. It’s human.
• And then there is what I call fear or urgency marketing. It may have for vocation to accelerate the awareness of the market or to create a market faster than the reality of the needs and the uses would do it. But by force it is counterproductive: by constantly selling a “next big thing” which does not or does not arrive within the announced deadlines, we end up no longer being audible.
However, the internet, mobile phones, e-commerce to name a few have radically transformed the world over the past 10-15 years. As professionals on the subject, as informed observers, we keep saying to ourselves “another thing that does not take off”, “another thing that has been oversold”. But the reality is that when you take the time to look behind you, the magnitude of the changes that have occurred makes you dizzy. They just did not intervene when we expected them, we lost interest in the subject, we looked elsewhere but one day we realize that it ended up happening. Not because a few visionaries hammered out something, but because the customers, the company, took the time to appropriate it at their own pace and to walk the long road which leads from disbelief to a felt and expressed need.
I was saying that we were making a film with AI and Data to the extent that in the short term we will certainly be disappointed with what we do with it. But over a 10-year horizon the change will certainly be much larger than what the most optimistic people imagine today.
Likewise, let’s face it, the digital transformation of companies has not taken place. We talk less about it, tomorrow we will talk about it more at all and we will look elsewhere. But in a few years we will realize that companies no longer have anything to do in terms of business model, tools, operating methods, organization, management with what they were at the start of the 2010s.
Change always arrives slower than expected but always stronger.
This is the second part of Bill Gates’ sentence. “We underestimate the change in the next 10 years”. Scalded, companies no longer give in to emergency marketing and wait. They have come to understand that over two years nothing changes. But that makes them fall into a wait-and-see attitude and, 7 or 10 years later, they are up against the wall because not only has the change finally happened, but its magnitude is even greater than expected. But as it arrived slowly nobody saw anything coming before hitting the wall.
The fact that things never happen as quickly as expected should not be an easy argument for deciding not to act. Because they always end up happening and stronger than expected.
A lesson that, unfortunately, I don’t believe companies are ready to understand anytime soon.
Bertrand Duperrin is Digital Transformation Practice Leader in Emakina. He was previously Consulting Director at Nextmodernity, a firm in the field of business transformation and management through social business and the use of social technologies.