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As originally published by David Sable on Linkedin. Subscribe to the newsletter!
Are ideas digital or analog? What about inspiration?
I ask because I recently heard yet another “Digital First” presentation, and I was challenged to find any original idea at all in the very smart and fashionable deck shared with myself and the rest of the audience.
As I have written before, investors should run from marketing companies that speak in DIGIBABBLE (that is, Digital First), because until we humans become digital entities, our choices transcend technology.
And of course, there is the practical side to my argument. One of my frequent mantras is, “digital is everything, but not everything is digital,” meaning that digital technology is at the core of just about everything today, no matter if the final product presents itself as digital or otherwise.
Bottom line, most everything that likes to present itself as “tech” today is simply an application of tech, but in and of itself, has broken no new tech ground.
All of which leads me back to the notion of ideas and inspiration.
A recent article I read about Gen Z freeing the world from e-mail made me wonder who was going to save the world from Zoom and iMessage and more importantly, what did one have to do with the other? Isn’t it the use case that’s important? How you use the product or service? How you leverage it to build ideas and inspire people, as opposed to merely freeing the world from its use?
It reminds me of an assignment I had, years ago, from one of the top global consulting firms. The project entailed interviewing their most important partners, with the goal of helping them better understand their brand and how to leverage it for new business. I’ll never forget when one partner told me, “I am nothing without my computer—we are nothing without our tech.”
I was shocked—seriously. A firm known for its IP, bold thinking, game changing strategies and transformational ideas was reduced to a PC. That notion, needless to say, comprised a large portion of my report and presentation.
Let’s be clear and quiet the Knee Jerkers. Tech is an enabler. It always has been and always will be. A PC can help to accomplish a lot, but it isn’t going to make the difference in a company’s pursuit of clients or solutions—only people and ideas can, relationships and value-added thinking.
I’ve been particularly inspired over the past few weeks because both Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos made it into space on their private spacecrafts. In fact, I watched Richard Branson’s flight, while I flew (earthbound) to a business meeting.
As I quietly cheered him on from my Delta seat, I felt transported back to my younger self…standing on my grade school rooftop playground in Manhattan, with friends crowded around me to listen to John Glenn’s liftoff on my little transistor radio (the height of technology back then).
I was already bit by the space bug, it never left me. Over the years, though, it’s been hard to sustain the awe and wonder of it all—the inspiration to look up and out, not just down and in.
Branson always looked up. His vision for Virgin was always huge and inspiring. My view is that people like him and Bezos and Musk don’t want to be remembered for a fashionable airline, a big store with quick delivery or for creating yet another fast car (electric or autonomous notwithstanding), which is why they’ve all jumped on the space bandwagon.
I know it’s easy to be cynical about it all. Billionaires competing over whose toy will get them to space first, quickest, furthest. But perhaps a more positive way of viewing it, as I choose to do, is that this renewed interest in space travel represents a potential renewal of our human desire to break the bounds of what limits us.
We are in trouble if all we have to inspire the next generation is TikTok, Instagram and the Kardashians. We need more. We need to look up and out.
Richard Branson said on his return:
“The whole thing it was just magical”
I’d like to think he was channeling the legendary author of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Arthur C. Clarke, who wrote the following:
“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”
It’s time to get the magic back. To think about ideas and not just execution. To inspire and not just hype investment. To look up and out and not just down and in.
Because ideas are neither digital or analog—they’re magic.
What do you think?
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