Remember the bit in “Alien” where Ripley makes her last stand against the invading space creature, staring it down with a look of abject terror in her eyes? She’s trapped in a chaotic environment. No one’s there to help, familiar systems and routines are broken, and the consequences of inaction are catastrophic or worse.
It doesn’t have to be like that with your organization.
Let’s take Facebook as an example. Their situation looks scary to some onlookers. The company has lost key revenue streams. They face probing questions about users’ mounting defections to other media, about privacy, and about technological colonialism. Yet no one at Facebook looks scared like Ripley. What’s their secret?
Taking a deeper look at Facebook’s strategy reveals some key behaviors for your business to emulate.
First, they keep their focus on the bigger picture, enabling them to weather criticisms and even financial headwinds. There have been plenty of stories about the fact that less than a third of Facebook’s audience is now comprised of under-30s. But over 90 percent of Americans aged 13-29 are on the platform. Facebook has done an amazing job of market penetration with its key clientele—no matter what the headlines tout. Their strategic focus has resulted in 50 percent more users than their nearest rival… and more users than television.
Second, Facebook doesn’t cling to antiquated revenue streams. It uses today’s revenue to invest in tomorrow’s technology strategies. There’s no doubt that Facebook makes money hand over thumbs-up fist in mobile advertising, but that’s not where it’s placing its biggest future bets. Their Connectivity Lab is an entire division dedicated to, in Mark Zuckerberg’s words, inventing “drones, satellites and lasers to deliver the internet to everyone.” All of the sudden, the world’s largest entertainment company is also an agile hardware and software company. The mission of the lab is breathtakingly simple: invent things that will increase connectivity 10-fold while reducing cost by a factor of 10.
Third, Facebook’s investments are clever, and they serve to position Facebook well for the Global Mesh. In a few short years, the Internet as we know it will be replaced by connectivity everywhere, for everybody, in every thing. This will happen thanks to the work of Facebook and its peers, aided and abetted by changes in consumer behavior and regulations. No longer will service come through your Internet provider and be dependent on strong enough Wi-Fi or cell signals. In addition to lofting solar drones to carry WiGig bandwidth into new nooks and crannies of the globe, Facebook just launched an open-source shoebox, OpenCellular, to bring interoperability and additional access. This is a quintessential tech-winner move: Thinking ahead about future opportunities and investing boldly in them, instead of burning money and daylight to solve today’s problems.
Maybe you don’t think of your company as a quintessential tech-winner. Maybe you just want to focus on delivery of the best goods or services in your particular vertical. Maybe you don’t have tens of billions to spend hiring the world’s best rocket scientists, laser designers, and aeronautical engineers. Just maybe, your IT staff are too busy burning money and time on today’s problems to focus on tomorrow’s opportunities.
If your company meets one or more of those criteria, you will soon come face-to-face with technological disruptions that put you at risk of looking like Ripley near the end of “Alien.” Or worse yet, like she looked at the end of “Alien 3.” But you don’t need billions of dollars (or legions of space marines) to get your company in a better situation. Just look the future right in the face. It’s not an alien, and it need not be scary—but it does require you to be ready. You need a clear-eyed, forward-focused IT strategy and trusted guidance to implement it. These tools are accessible to you today; you just need to know where to look.