Does This Look Familiar?

by Jason Brandt (@jasondmg3)

  1. I dont understand any of this stuff.
  2. Who has the time to really use this stuff anyway?
  3. No real business can afford to have employees wasting their time on this stuff when they should be busy working.
  4. Its just a geek thing. Nobody with a life really uses this stuff.
  5. Its just a kid thing. Nobody over 20 really uses this stuff.
  6. Even if this new stuff has some applications for some industries, but in healthcare, its just too difficult. It will never work here.
  7. Even if we wanted to see if this new stuff could work here, we cant try it yet. We have to wait for the FDA to explain exactly what we can and cant do.
  8. Even if we did try this new stuff, who would own the project? IT? Marketing? Communications? We cant all try to share it, itll be a disaster.

Raise your hand if youve heard someone say that about social networks, smartphone apps, blogging or any other type of social digital technology over the last few years.

Now, if youve been in this industry over 15 years, look at that list again… and raise your hand if you heard someone say that about websites in the mid-1990s.

The more things change, eh?

As funny as it sounds, people were scared to death of websites – once they stopped scoffing at them. Theyd waste employees time, theyd never be accessible to most consumers, theyd invite a crippling deluge of adverse event reports from the fanatics who would find them, and the FDA would shut the whole company down if you tried to say anything anyway.

The double-edged sword that breakthroughs carry (in communication technology or anything else) is that they are entirely unformed. They do not come with guidelines. They do not come with user manuals. You cant always tell which will catch on. You cant always tell how people will use them. You cant always tell what next-generations they will spawn.

This is uncertainty. This is change. This is movement. This is scary as hell.

But the thing is, its not. It is not uncertain, it is not movement or change. It is not new. It is the exact same argument about the exact same ideas – just with a new specific target.

Healthy skepticism is healthy. It can keep you from wasting time, money and resources. It can keep you asking questions. It can keep you thinking critically and strategically.

But unhealthy skepticism is paralyzing, debilitating, deadly. Today, youd laugh at any company who thought having an online presence was a waste, or who wouldnt give their desk-based staff internet access. It would be ludicrous.

So, how do you keep the balance between healthy skepticism – and asking the same fear-based questions from decades past?

Here, we get our hands dirty with new technology. We take it apart, play with it, figure out what wed like to have it for ourselves, and start to piece it into our plans. But we dont throw out what weve got thats already working. Movies didnt disappear after TV, and TV hasnt disappeared because of the internet. The new pieces – the ones that last – learn how to play with the old ones, and vice versa.

How do you stop asking the same old questions?

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