No. 52 November 10, 2000
||1. Editorial: In praise of slowness|
Time saving and time management are important issues for
anyone, and especially for managers. But haste isnt a
solution. Everyone seems to be running around aimlessly and
that isnt saving time (or money). Its leading to waste of
time, confusion and poor decisions. Many people seem to think
that its a result of the new economy. It isnt.
The problem was there before the internet had any impact on
business and its getting worse for reasons that have
nothing to do with new communication systems.
Decisions, plans or suggestions are suddenly seen as
urgent. Then they disappear in a corporate maze,
to re-surface months later when its too late to manage the
issue properly or it needs to be handled in a desperate
hurry, which of course leads to errors, which then need to be
fixed in a state of haste, which generates more mistakes...
The myth is that because we operate in a fast
environment we must be in a hurry all the time. Computers
work faster, but data management hasnt become easier.
E-mail gets everywhere in a relatively short time but so
did the telephone and the telefax many years ago. Cars are slower
(because of traffic jams) and so is air traffic (because of the long
time getting to and from the airport and the inefficiencies of cluttered
systems). We are not in a faster environment than we were
twenty or thirty years ago. New communication systems (including
mobile phones) if used properly would be time savers and decision
simplifiers; but the way most people use them has the opposite effect.
The obsession with haste is a self-feeding vicious circle
that leads to an enormous waste of time. Rushing ahead
without a proper sense of direction is the slowest (and least
efficient) way of getting anywhere. A lot of time,
discomfort and distress can be avoided by plotting a course
before the journey begins.
The most important rule of the game, at this stage, is
stop and think. That isnt necessarily
time-consuming. But it does mean turning our back on the
rat-race and paying attention to where we are going and why.
Most of the best students of the new communication
environment believe that its biological, and we need to
think as gardeners or farmers. That, of course, doesnt mean
that we can go back to the slow life on the land of two or
three hundred years ago. A biological system can be quite
fast, but it grows at its own speed; not in line with our
perception of haste or the time factors of any mechanical
(or digital) device. We need to listen and to understand
before we rush ahead. To test, check and learn before we expand something
that we havent understood properly (hasty decisions and an
urge to rush to market before anything is
properly tested are the main reason for bankruptcies and
failures in many ventures new or
old). That takes concentration and the
investment of some time in the early stages of a project. But
it saves an enormous amount of time, as well a lot of
unnecessary mistakes, one or two steps ahead. There was an
old song, by I cant remember which rock group, ten or more
years ago. The music was irrelevant, but there was some
wisdom in the lyric: the world turns, and the candle burns,
and the blind lead the blind. I cant help remembering that
song when I look at how things are done regardless of
whether its old economy or new.
Rushing around blindly (and getting nervous in the process)
makes our life miserable and our business shaky. And it is
not the fastest way to success.
Other stuff on this subject:
Is hasty really fast?
Cinderella needs to grow up
The net is a biological system
The cultivation of the internet
The old roots of the network economy
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||2. Theyve sold my soul (but they dont own it)|
When I wrote about trading
in souls nine months ago, I didnt quite realize how
extensively people around the world were selling and buying
my soul. The ghost of someone who is no longer
there, just as the dead souls in Gogols novel.
A recent change in my way of sorting incoming mail revealed
that over half of the spamming I get is directed to a mailbox
that I havent been using for over four years. And even more
recent lists dont work. Whoever is doing
profiles is aiming very poorly (one of many
possible examples... it makes no sense to send to a
dot it address an offer that is of no interest to
people living outside the United States. And that could be avoided
with a very simple cleaning process).
Of course I throw away spam messages with out reading
them (with a bit of experience its quite easy to tell what
is spam and what may be an interesting message from someone I
dont know). But I glance often enough to know that 99
percent of the spam is of no interest to me. I hardly ever
react even to the rare offers that mention something I may
want; and on those rare occasions I was always disappointed
when I looked into what they were trying to sell. I never
bought anything, or subscribed to anything, that was
presented by spamming. And, of many people I know who are
online, Ive never heard of anyone having a better experience
with junk mail.
Even the best e-marketers in the world, including a few
that have my permission to send me mail about new things they
are selling, dont seem to be able to tailor their messages
properly. They have my profile, they know what I
have been buying, I am not bothered by their occasional (and
polite) messages... but they dont fit my needs. They are
trying, but they dont know how to personalize.
Its not easy, even for people with four or five years
of experience in electronic trading.
People who buy lists or profiles are doing
much worse than that. Lack of updating, and basic poor
quality, in lists have plagued traditional
direct marketing for many years. Online, its even worse.
Of course junk e-mail is cheaper than paper mail, fax or
phone. But it is junk. The lists that are being sold (and,
unfortunately, bought) are junk. The profiles and
systems are junk. These combined factors produce the junjkiest
possible junk. Some people are trying to give it some dignity
by calling it e-mail marketing but its
still the same old junk. Its interesting to notice that very few
established brands or reliable companies use spam. There may be
many inexperienced people on the net, falling into traps before
they know better... but they learn quickly. The more spam people get,
the less they trust it. Spam is self-destructive. Thats one
of many reasons why it should be avoided.
back to top
||3. Online nonsense|
People online, generally, learn quickly. But some dont
and it isnt easy to understand why. Newspapers are often
plagued with false news, such as viruses that dont exist or
are very different from what is being reported. But online
its even worse. Sometimes I receive alerts about real
viruses. But they are rarely outside mailing lists to which I
subscribe and that concentrate on that subject. What I get
quite often (dont we all?) are hoaxes. Most hoaxes are
deliberately written in such a way that if anyone reads them
carefully its clear that they are jokes. But many people who
are not stupid, and have been online for years, forward them
widely as real. And there are chain letters...
and cries for help for a sick child that (luckily) recovered
years ago and would be living happily except for the clutter
if help mail he and his family dont need...
I dont understand why these things continue to happen.
One possible explanation is haste. People are deluded with
the idea that everything online has to be fast. So they get
disappointed if they dont receive an answer in a day, or
even a few hours. And they forward all sorts of silly stuff
because they think it must be done in a hurry.
And... there are people who write for help. There is
nothing wrong with that, except when they are simply too
lazy. Such as students who expect someone else to do research
for them. We could, maybe, add another acronym to the classic
RTFM. The proper answer to some
requests is DJOH
do your own homework.
Once again... stop and think is the solution.
Just as business decisions would be much more effective if
they were thought out well, e-mail would work much better if
people spent a minute or two thinking before they write
and reading what they have written (or what they are forwarding)
before they mail it. That would save us all a lot of
unnecessary trouble and time.