Thursday, February 23, 2012

The World Is On Fire

Again. It’s not the first time, certainly we have seen sweeping changes in the way we live and do business, even in our lifetimes. Mechanical transport, electricity, telephones, air travel, radio and television – all these and more rearranged lives and businesses. But they did so at a relatively ordered pace since the infrastructure required to implement and support the advances did not exist, particularly outside of developed countries, and had to be built. Each one would build upon the previous as they progressed throughout the world. But now, as we are in the throes of the information age, or the digital revolution, or whatever you want to call it, the ordered pace of progress has become a firestorm and it is burning across the entire globe almost daily.
This is a key difference in several ways, but don’t miss this word: global.  
The party has gotten much bigger – instead of a few thousand people influencing your life you now have to contend with 7 billion. You needn’t dig very deep to understand how enormous a change that is. The basic methods of doing commerce have and continue to evolve in new and exciting ways, and as a result well-ordered, step by step career plans have also become a casualty. “Build” has been replaced by “pivot” as the new mantra. Pundits and professors alike are talking about business models that are more akin to chaos theory than an old time business plan, and they are not speaking in jest. (The fact that I can call it an “old time business plan” and you didn’t blink should tell you something.)

The intrinsic value of a patent or copyright has gone up in smoke as well.

A disturbing statement for anyone in the licensing business. Oh, the law hasn’t changed, it still grants ownership rights and a registration grants you more rights and some clout, but you know that doesn’t really matter if someone in Ethiopia or Vietnam ignores it. And it increasingly doesn’t seem to matter to 16 year old bloggers, wanna-be artists or the occasional Etsy designer showing off their, or is it your, creativity. Everything you do gets laid out on a worldwide digital stage. There is a school of thought wherein we are moving toward a cloud state where information and knowledge is a commodity owned by all and the concepts of authorship and origin will fade away. It is seductive in some ways to talk of free expression, shared innovation and the freedom to build upon each others ideas. Unless of course that affects how you feed your family, then maybe not so much, but unfortunately no less real.

I don’t have the answers, and even if I did they would only be right for me…for about 10 minutes. It is an exciting time for those who go to bed and wake up thinking about what they could, how they would, maybe they should… and then they do. It is a frightening time for those who look back at how they used to do things and wonder how to bring that about again – a sad waste of talent. You can’t stop a tsunami, sometimes you can’t even swim with it but you can climb above it. Run like the wind. Go!   

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