Change from the Periphery (Issue 728)

In which we are urged to meet many people in our primary accounts to understand their ideas and intentions well before they turn into action and an RFP.

Orlando, Florida. Consumer Bankers Association Conference. First main stage speaker: Peter Sheahan. He’s written six books  the most recent of which is “FLIP: How to Turn Everything You Know On Its Head.”

He told the following story.

In 1901, the mayor of London gathered a blue ribbon committee of notables to think strategically about the number one problem London faced at that time: growth. The city population had almost doubled from 1861 to 1901 – the population reached 6.5 million that year.

“What were the main challenges?” Sheahan asked.

We guessed and got it mostly right: housing, public health, jobs, transportation, food.

“Ah ha! Transportation… ,” Sheahan pointed at us. “The committee estimated that the population would increase another 2 million or so by 1925 and that the city would need 1 million more…. horses (and stable space for them)…. to provide transportation for the enlarged population.”

1 MILLION more horses. At roughly 50 pound of poop a day per horse…..

Well, we all know how that turned out. The horse population dropped and automobile manufacturing and ownership SOARED and were firmly established by the mid-1920s.. Who could have seen THAT coming?

Well, at the time, there were roughly 20,000 cars on the roads in England. But those were, primarily, for the very wealthy and brave, nothing that would make much of a difference…. or so they thought… and turned out to be colossally wrong. Surprise!

Sheahan’s lesson for us: Nothing ever disrupts an industry or a way of thinking that didn’t exist on the periphery for a significant period of time. It’s out there, and the main stream don’t see it or think it unimportant, and change is very slow… Until it is not.

In our clients, too, nothing ever disrupts them or changes their thinking and strategy that didn’t exist on the periphery inside their companies, or outside, for a significant period of time. Change is very slow… until it is not… and the RFP arrives.

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