Learn From the iPhone

By Edward Cone  |  Posted Tuesday, April 20, 2010 17:04 PM

By Samuel Greengard

It's a small wonder that anything ever changes in the modern organization.

Despite the constant blather about agility and flexibility, most people prefer to use the same old tools rather than cope with something new. Let's face it, rewiring the brain and learning entirely new ways to do things ranks right up there with root canals and IRS audits on the pleasure index.

Transitions to new technologies demand time, money, resources, and buy-in. Job pressures make it more tempting to be a leading edge adopter than a bleeding edge failure. Worse, not all technology is ready for prime-time--let alone user-friendly enough for Joe and Jane Cubicle. The nettlesome task is to ascertain when to adopt new tools that promise meaningful ROI but too often deliver hassles and failures.

Fortunately, the task is getting easier. The entire IT arena is maturing and converging at a rapid rate. At the enterprise level, it's finally possible to build robust networks that are optimized for performance and accessible via mobile devices. Cloud computing and Web 2.0 have wrought their transformations. SOA has made it possible to boldly go where IT couldn't go before. Virtualization has ushered in remarkable efficiencies. Converged networks have radically changed the way people act...and interact.

But lately I'm far more impressed by what's happening at the consumer level and how it's rippling into enterprise IT. The iPhone and the Android mobile OS, for example, are seeding an amazing array of ideas--and bringing forth actual applications--that are nothing short of remarkable. They're serving up geo-location, social networking, and collaboration in ways that no one could have imagined only a few years ago.

Savvy CIOs and IT executives might consider examining how teens and Gen Yers are using computers and mobile tools. Yes, a lot of these apps are genuinely silly and frivolous but that doesn't mean the underlying concepts lack value and can't be put to good use within an enterprise. For instance, Ning, Meebo, digg, and StumbleUpon can serve as a basis for a powerful knowledge-sharing framework.

And it doesn't stop there. Microsoft Tag and other firms such as Aztec and DataMatrix use advanced barcoding to bridge the divide between paper and pixel. These technologies streamline content distribution and document management through advanced barcoding. With Microsoft Tag, for instance, you use your mobile phone to scan a barcode associated with an article or some other content and the app connects you to videos, guides, and other content via your mobile Web browser. Two worlds blend rather than collide.

The upshot? If you want to affect change and gain a competitive edge then it's wise to focus on three things: 1) Innovate; 2) Provide value; 3) Motivate people to change. In the end, it really comes down to a simple equation: If you don't want to fight the tide you have to make a big enough wave.