We owe a lot to Thomas Edison. Were it not for him, we’d all be watching television by candlelight.
–Comedian Milton Berle
A high-tech innovation can transform two guys in a garage into billionaires. The irony is that the big companies they build can’t innovate. No matter how profitable they are or how smart and creative their employees are.
Fear, size, jealousy, competition, how companies work, and the creative destruction of existing products and services help explain why innovation is hard for technocracies. So they buy innovation instead.
Thanks to techno-auteur Steve Jobs, Apple is an exception. It’s driven by the vision of one demanding, relentless, irreplaceable man. Google understands the need to innovate or die, but its string of innovations have less impact and alienate companies whose territories they invade. Both companies also buy new technologies.
Technology used to advance in stages. There would be an innovation in trains, planes, and automobiles, and then they would remain at that level until the next innovation came along.
Today, we’re living on the vertical slope of technology trying to thrive during a time of accelerating change. The torrent of high-tech innovations is transforming publishing just as it’s transforming other media. But the larger any business, organization, or institution is, the harder it is to adapt.
In the eighties, writers were early adopters of computers. It took far longer for publishers to computerize. They had to create systems that were capable of both running a large business and carrying out the unique, complicated tasks involved in publishing every book. Publishers also had to integrate their systems so they could function together, a huge challenge that took years to accomplish and continues as technology evolves.
Paul Otellini, the CEO of Intel observed that: “It’s a lot easier to change when you can than when you have to.” As a multimedia, multinational conglomerate of one, you can innovate by changing what you write about to whatever
* most excites you
* is most salable
* you can most effectively connect with your readers about
You can change directions faster than publishers can, and you have more ways than ever to test-market your work to make sure you’re on the right track.
You have to balance building your visibility and credibility on subjects that you enjoy writing about and promoting with the need to be ready to take advantage of the next big thing.
You also have to balance change with stability, a growing challenge on the fun, scary, bewildering, exhilarating, accelerating ride during history’s most exciting century.
If you hang on tight, you can experience the thrills and spills as they happen and perhaps make a living writing about them.
Changes and innovations threaten the status quo, but they can also be an opportunity for
* changing how you work
* finding new ways to reach readers
* generating new sources of income
The future of writers who best communicate the perils and promise of life on Spaceship Earth is assured. I hope you’ll be one of them.