Underestimating

The Beatles are the best selling music act of all time. With over 600 million records sold, I wouldn’t be surprised if no one ever sells more albums than them. Why? Because, obviously, no one buys records anymore.

For many decades, record executives had the perfect system in place.

The radio played the hits. In order to listen to that hit, you had to go buy that record. If your friend heard that record and they wanted to listen to it, they had to go buy one too. If you wore out your record, you had to go buy a new one.

This worked for a long time; until 1999. In 1999, you have Sean Parker and Shawn Fanning working together to launch Napster. Napster didn’t appear on the giant music industry radar at first. And why would they? Two kids against Goliath.

Yet, rather quickly, it showed the potential of what a decentralized, peer to peer sharing network can do. And just like that the record industry was gone. No more Tower Records. No more buying CDs.

The final nail in the coffin was in 2001 when Apple released the iPod. Carrying thousands of songs in your pocket was now easy to do. Also, there was Radiohead. Radiohead in 2007 pioneered the “pay what you want” which opened the door for crowdfunding and permission marketing.

By the end of the decade, record executives needed to make a choice. They could sit there and insist that things go back to the way things were (and ultimately die) or you could see what was happening and adapt. Many chose the former and tried to sue their way back into existence.

Too often, we look at our resources as a way to dictate our decisions. But time and time again, resources are not the main issue here. It is having the guts, to see things as they really are and what they can become. Having the guts to say we are going to go a different direction.

Here’s the thing:

We underestimated the internet. We underestimated decentralized networks. We underestimated the network effect. We underestimated social media and smart phones. We constantly underestimate how fast change continues to come at us. Things are drastically different from what they were just 20 years ago. (Teens are shocked to discover that I used to have to pay 10 cents to send and receive a text.) And there are real game changers coming around the corner. AI, the internet of things, VR, smart cars…1984 is here.

AI can already read x-ray scans better than a radiologist. There is no industry safe from what is to come.

The question is, are you going to keep underestimating what is to come next? Because if you are insisting the world stay the same, you might be left behind.