John Lefferts' Blog

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Collateral Damage

While out with a friend of mine we observed a guy with his hands fumbling through what seemed to my buddy as a strange, archaic device. He sarcastically asked, “What is that thing that looks like words printed on paper?” Uh…that would be a newspaper, I replied.

While I am not ready to predict the complete demise of newspapers like my friend inferred, it can’t be that far away. The pace of change over the past year in communications is staggering. Over the past week, Borders announced a plan to file bankruptcy, Blockbuster is frantically looking for a buyer and the Egyptian government was toppled. These events would have been unthinkable a couple years ago and today it has all changed just because of the way these little technological devices have entered our lives. In the 2/17 WSJ there is a great article that describes “technology driven job destruction”: 2/17 WSJ Article here Technology is eating jobs as well as entire companies and governments that do not keep up, as we have witnessed this week.

I used to look forward to entering my day by reading the Wall Street Journal every morning. But since I read the most current version before going to bed on my iPad the night before, by the time it hits the doorstep in the morning, most of it is no longer news to me. By using the Tweetdeck application on my desktop, Flipboard on my iPad, and Twittelator on my iPhone, I can keep track of all the business and financial industry goings on in near real time. For an information junkie like me, it’s pure heaven…not so much for my wife who has recently and often been repeating “Can’t you stop looking at screens and pay attention to me for a minute!”

I admit that while this new information world has changed much for the better, there are nearly as many annoyances that come with it. Like driving down the freeway at 70MPH watching the hipster in the lane next to me with a cell phone in one hand texting while applying eye make-up in her rear view mirror with her other hand and swerving like she just downed a fifth of scotch. At a restaurant, I witnessed a family of 5 (Mom/Dad/3 teens) sitting together with each of their noses, parents included, turned downward towards their cell phones and texting in unison. It made me wonder if they were texting each other instead of talking. And we’ve all been annoyed by the dolts who don’t take time to look up from texting while at the stop light. I observed one where, despite all the honking horns, the light went through a full cycle before he looked up to notice. I suppose this is all part of working through progress.

The pace of change in business is often incremental and not immediately seen while it is taking place (the frog in boiling water thing). But you would have to be a complete shut-in not to feel the absolute “turn on its head” kind of change occurring in the retail financial services business. It’s as if the business experienced its own “big bang” event in the fall of 2008 where everything was in chaos and then over time, began to take shape and evolve. I think we’re in that period where we’re taking shape being molded by forces unlike ever before. And just like we’ve seen with Borders, Blockbuster and the corrupt Egyptian government, we’ll soon be seeing similar collateral damage in financial services as a result of those staying rooted in the past rather than embracing change for the future. While one door is closed for some, another is opened for the forward thinking who can embrace technology and crack the code on a business model that survives the change we are enduring. Stay tuned….um, I mean… stay connected!

“Faced with the choice between changing one's mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof. ~John Kenneth Galbraith

"Unless you are prepared to give up something valuable you will never be able to truly change at all, because you'll be forever in the control of things you can't give up." ~Andy Law"

“The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence; it is to act with yesterday’s logic." ~ Peter Drucker