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More On ‘Recession or Reorder?’

Retail
Piers Fawkes, PSFK
  • 30 december 2008

There’s much discussion about the significant change we are witnessing accelerated by the financial crisis. In a piece called Recession or Reorder I used some data to suggest that shifts in work, play and media that have been forecasted for a long while are now taking place. The VC Fred Wilson on his popular blog continues this theme with a post titled ‘Bits of Destruction‘:

I’m typing this on my blackberry in a hotel lobby in berlin, I’ll hit send, and it will be published and read by roughly 5,000 people today. Compare that to what it takes to get the Tom Friedman column ‘Time To Reboot America’ which is sitting in front of me in the International Herald Tribune newspaper printed and delivered to me. Printing and distribution infrastructure cannot compete with bits on a wire and we are going to see that infrastructure end up in in bankruptcy a lot in the next 12 months.

…And what about retailing? I had breakfast last week with a person who has been in retailing for more than 30 years and has been operating at the highest levels of the industry. He said that he expects every category to be winnowed down to one dominant retailer with all the others going by the wayside. This too has the internet as an underlying cause… The fact is that consumers have finally come to the realization that shopping online is easier, cheaper, and often a better experience.

…Its creative destruction at work. It’s painful and many jobs will be lost permanently. But let’s also remember that its inevitable and we can’t fight it. Technology and information forces are unstoppable and they will reshape the world as we know it regardless of whether or not we want them to.

Jeff Jarvis reacts with some additional commentary and says:

The point in any case is that it would be a mistake to think that we will come out of this financial crisis soon wounded but still seeing the world the way we saw it before. In the graveyard of camels with broken backs, we will see a new world newly structured and we’re only beginning to figure it out.

In this sense, media – music, newspapers, TV, magazines, books – may be lucky to be among the first to undergo this radical restructuring. Communications was also early on because it – like media – appeared close to the internet and Google (though, as I say in the post below, it’s a mistake to see the internet strictly as media or as pipes; it’s something other). Other industries and institutions – advertising, manufacturing, health, education, government… – are next and they, like their predecessors, don’t see what’s coming, especially if they think all they’re undergoing is a crisis. The change is bigger, more fundamental, and more permanent than that.

Meanwhile Scott Anthony in the Harvard Review says that this is the era of the Great Disruption:

While the global economy began slowing down in late 2007, forces transforming the face of business trace back more than a decade. Over that time period, technological improvements have made it ever easier to start and scale a business. Convergence went from being a cliché to a reality. Companies from countries like China, India, and Brazil burst onto the world stage. The global slowdown coupled with the credit crunch in late 2008 accelerated these forces.

If sagging employment and dwindling economic prospects led historians to term the 1930s the Great Depression, perhaps it is appropriate to tab today’s hyper-competitive market where competitive advantage dissipates in a heartbeat the “Great Disruption.”

…While companies might want to return to the corporate equivalent of comfort food–cost-cutting and a focus on the core business–the Great Disruption won’t allow it.

Some companies have been developing their innovation abilities for years. They are in good position to seize the opportunities that always present themselves in tough economic climates. Companies that are in the beginning of the innovation journey need to accelerate capability-development efforts or will find themselves simply unprepared for the fight ahead. Industries that had already been grappling with disruptive threats for years–like newspaper companies–will face intense pain as they struggle to find a safe haven in today’s brutal economic climate.

Fred Wilson: Bits Of Destruction
Jeff Jarvis: t’s not just an era; it’s a new world order
Scott Anthony: Innovating In The Great Disruption

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