Slaying giants

Futurist Gerd Leonhard speaking at Learning Technologies 2013
Listening to media futurist Gerd Leonhard speaking at the recent Learning Technologies Conference in London was both engaging and thought provoking. Leonhard is not a crystal ball gazer, nor is he a modern day prophet, but what he does manage to do quite successfully is gauge the technological trends and contextualise them in real situations. One of his most powerful statements was that our concepts of space and place will never be the same again. For centuries humans have created and maintained spaces and places around them, and have conducted their lives, their businesses and their play within them. With the advent of pervasive technologies, especially smart mobile technologies, he argued, we are no longer confined or constrained by the environments we find ourselves in. Leonhard postulated that work and learning no longer need to be location (or even time) dependent. New technologies liberate us from temporal and spatial constraints, and this will have a radical effect on the future of Learning and Development departments in organisations. He believes if companies do not begin to realise that things have changed around them, we are likely to see many going to the wall. Even the large companies are vulnerable, and if they fail to adapt we may witness some giant slaying.

In an equally thought provoking article in the Inside Learning Technologies and Skills Magazine, Leonhard outlines some of the tough dilemmas and challenges facing business over the next few years. A key problem he suggests, emerges from the 'Free Culture' movement described by Lawrence Lessig. Can businesses hope to compete when all around them content is available for free?  Copying of content is rampant, he warns, and 'the internet is a giant copying machine.' His solution is for content publishers to wake up and realise that their goods and services must be offered in a way that no longer relies on distribution as a key factor. He recommends a major rethink, because the game has changed, and consumers who know how to use the internet are more empowered than they ever were. His main point is that the 'if you want it you pay for it' mentality many businesses still adhere to, is increasingly anachronistic. Leonhard believes the major social media platforms have it right. Companies such as LinkedIn, Flickr and Slideshare start by offering a free entry level and then, once they have the attention and loyalty of the user, offer premium services that provide access to better and more sophisticated features.

Gerd Leonhard also talks about voluntary (consider the ongoing funding of Wikipedia through this method) and crowd sourced funding as revenue models that are already increasingly popular in the social media world. He believes that the 'feels like free' approach to content and service delivery will become increasingly prevalent for companies as technology becomes even more pervasive in society. Organisations who do not wake up and adopt these new business models will be in danger of suffering a similar fate to previously unassailable corporate giants such as Kodak.

Photograph by Steve Wheeler

Creative Commons License
Slaying giants by Steve Wheeler is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.


James Carter said…
Watch Gerd Leonhard's presentation here -

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