Monday, July 27, 2009

Paradigm Shift

So, I've seen/talked with a few people who saw Google's superhero logo from this past weekend and were trying to figure out the benefit of having a home page with Batman across the top. Their thoughts generally ran along the "why bother, since I'm going to click over to another site in 2 seconds anyway" line of thinking. I've also had a few conversations recently with Baby Boomers, who I've had to explain implications of new technology; they understood WHAT a new piece of technology did, but they didn't quite get WHY you would want that. I also recently heard the question posed to a roomful of coworkers, "If your Tivo wasn't working, and you couldn't record anything, what one TV show would you absolutely stay home to watch instead of going out with friends?"

What all of these scenarios point to are people trying to understand new ideas and processes using old thought processes. As I heard put recently, "We're always fighting the last war." In essence, people try to force new situations into an old context they're already comfortable with. And that makes sense that people can and often do exactly that, so I don't begrudge or judge people on having that disconnect in their thinking. (I'm sure I'm guilty of doing that far more often than I even recognize myself!)

The idea is NOT to use your web browser to search out and track down pages and sites that you know you want to catch up with. The idea is to have your portal pull those pages' latest updates back to you, all on one screen. Let the computer do the repetitive work that they're good at for you.

The idea that you're limited to what TV networks show, and when, is similarly outdated when you can go to any number of web sites (often, the networks' own web sites) and select individual episodes to play at your convenience, regardless if you'd planned on watching them at all in the first place. It's the TV-on-demand people have been prophetizing for years.

The same applies across all industries. With today's electronic efficiencies in delivery mechanisms, why can't individual consumers order directly from Diamond and have their new books shipped to their home every Wednesday? Why can't publishers do a better job of offering their stories online? Why do publishers look at themselves as publishers instead of licensors, as many of them really are? It all stems from old thinking.

Trying to teach people to think in terms of new paradigms isn't as easy as teaching rocket science; it's more akin to trying to teach creativity. There's not a simple, straight-forward process with numbered steps. But I think alerting people to the need to think in new ways is a minimum requirement (hence this post).

So try looking beyond the functionality of everything that's going on and look at what that new/improved functionality means.

Welcome to the 21st century! Good luck!

2 comments:

Torsten Adair said...

Some people don't need a homepage. They use the computer to send email and to search the web.

My parents hit the email button on the keyboard and up pops Outlook. They read, they respond, and they get on with whatever needs doing. Tivo? Their life isn't that complicated.

Heck, I've been using the Internet back when screens came in one color (fancy ones let you switch between white, orange, and green monochrome) and the only pictures were ASCII. I don't have a homepage, instead I use Google Chrome to showcase the nine most visited sites, to store bookmarks, and to provide a link to Blogger.

My Treo is even simpler... only bookmarks, one of which is Google. Technology can be useful, but do we really need some of it? Internal combustion engines are nice, but useless when you have a subway running through your neighborhood.

Sean Kleefeld said...

A fair point -- not everyone needs all the newest bells and whistles. But while my initial examples were personal in nature, I was thinking more along the lines of businesses using what-worked-before instead of how-businesses-need-to-operate-today. I could've done a much better job in explaining that changing perspective in my initial post.

Most businesses in comicdom are still essentially doing business as they had in the 1980s. FedEx got replaced by faxes which got replaced by FTP, but the processes are essentially unchanged. If a company wishes to be more than just staying afloat, they have to push their thinking on how changing technology impacts the WHY of their business.

Individually, though, yeah, the latest smart phone isn't necessary for any given person.