Your firm vs. a ten-year-old: who will win?

by Bruce Kasanoff on December 6, 2010

Will your company accept this challenge? Can your firm, over the next two years, become as intelligent as a ten-year-old child in the way it interacts with your customers?

It’s not a silly question, and it’s harder than it sounds. Here’s what the ten-year-old can do:

- Remember you when you walk in the front door
- Offer you the stuff she’s noticed you like, and not bother with the stuff you don’t
- Listen to your words and understand them
- Notice when you leave the room
- Recognize that when you shake your head from side to side, it means “no”

Unfair, you say. I’m talking about science fiction stuff. Artificial intelligence. Impossible.

Not impossible, just hard.

As I’ve pointed out several times in recent weeks, the new Kinect for Xbox 360 can tell the difference between your voice and the music you are playing in the background. It can tell the difference between you and the other members of your family. It notices when you leave the room. It knows what your gestures mean. And it is a toy.

That toy is smarter than your firm.

With increasing frequency, when you call customer service for a utility, phone company or credit card firm, the automated system can recognize your words.

The days of acting like a big, dumb company are numbered. Truth is, you may have as many as five years before your firm needs to behave as intelligently as a ten-year-old. But intelligence is a powerful competitive advantage, and it will enormously difficult to catch up with competitors who act that way two years from now.

Maybe you want to embrace this challenge after all.

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