Siri highlights the real digital divide

by Bruce Kasanoff on October 20, 2011

Siri, the digital assistant that lives on each Apple iPhone 4S, makes life incredibly simple for you. Just lift the phone to your ear and tell her what you want.

This is as simple as it’s ever been to operate a computer, and I can’t imagine how many million lines of code it took to create such simplicity.

In this respect, Siri represents the real digital divide, between the companies able to tackle such complexity, and the rest of us.

It would be easy to think of this divide as companies versus consumers, but that’s not right. Millions of companies can’t handle this much complexity. They have no idea how to create the spec for a creation even close to Siri, never mind how to build it.

So it shakes out like this:

  • Smart customers: consumers and small businesses find it simpler than ever to act smarter.
  • Magical Companies: a small number of highly sophisticated companies know how to make technology behave like magic; these are the ones that still have access to capital and are still growing rapidly.
  • The Land of Stupid: a large number of companies are caught between rising customer expectations and the harsh realities of their own limitations.

The Land of Stupid is where even simple customer requests encounter corporate Catch-22s: we don’t have access to your purchase history… our phone system doesn’t show me your account number… approval will take three days.

In the Land of Stupid, business managers are confronting terrifying challenges. They find themselves competing in a world that expects to buy magic devices for $199, but all they have to offer are dumb products. They lack the vision, expertise, discipline and creativity to create complex services that are incredibly simple to use.

Of course, that small group of magical companies see opportunity here. They are rushing to create modular services that even dumb companies can combine to deliver compelling offerings. But if all your competitors can buy such services, they won’t provide any competitive advantages in the Land of Stupid.

My point is to light a fire under companies that live on the border between The Land of Stupid and the magicians. Get out of the Land of Stupid, now. Stop tolerating all the internal excuses, start tackling that complexity head on, and find ways to bring diverse groups of employees, partners and even customers together.

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