Of ‘Jurassic Park’ and All Things 2.0

What do these things have in common? Maybe nothing other than that the movie has a sequel and the two-dot-oh suffix is a sequel. Also, the start of blockbuster movie sequel season overlaps with trade shows like Sales 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0.

Sales 2.0 was held in Boston a couple of weeks ago, Enterprise 2.0 is coming next week, and I can’t wait. I thought Sales 2.0 was respectable — it made me think — and I am optimistic about attending Enterprise 2.0. It certainly has a lot of buzz.

The link I see and that I want to explore is Dr. Ian Malcolm, the character played by Jeff Goldblum in the movie. You might recall from the movie or the book, that Malcolm is a mathematician interested in chaos theory. Chaos is about the only thing that dates the film. It was a big idea in the early Clinton years, and the film debuted in 1993. Truthfully, chaos has always been with us, wrapped in other language, and even the Bible alludes to it in Job, I think, but I am no scholar.

Unknown Unknowns

The idea behind chaos in the movie is the unpredictability of life and how even the best-made plans are subject to the vicissitudes of what Donald Rumsfeld called “unknown unknowns.” Malcolm’s fear is that anything as complex as reconstructing a dinosaur from DNA fragments is bound to suffer from the influence of a few unknowns, and the plot proves him right.

I have my Malcolm moments lately when I think about anything two-dot-oh. The idea of the ineluctability of change is solid, but a past paradigm does not necessarily flow seamlessly into its successor. We love the idea of 2.0-anything, but it would be good to keep in mind that much has changed since the first 2.0 ideas emerged at the end of the last bubble — a time when, for the vast majority of us, credit default swaps and their ilk were unknown unknowns.

Two follows one in logical and unremarkable sequence, and the label leaves me with a false sense of security about the gradual shift from one paradigm to the next. However, that is rarely how paradigms shift. Paradigms shift like a pileup on the interstate.

Two-dot-oh ideas are an acknowledgment that change is coming, but many of the purveyors of change take as their assumptions that foundational ideas are not on the chopping block. To a degree, that’s true, but the idea is inconsistent. Let’s get concrete.

Different Times, Different Demands

At the Sales 2.0 show, I noted that some of the verities of selling were immovable objects. For example, who can argue with the idea of filling a sales pipeline? Sales 2.0’s message was that new technologies were available to do the filling. But how? That’s exactly where chaos comes in.

We should be asking, how full is full? And full of what? The Sales 1.0 approach has always been to corral a bunch of suspects and sift until you find the good ones, so naturally a Sales 2.0 approach might mean the more the better. More suspects and faster sifting? Maybe. Chaos intervenes here to tell us that the economy and the market are not what we assumed they would be when two-dot-oh was a bright and shiny idea. Faster can be done, but more?

With a changed economy, the idea of a full pipeline is more about having a lot of very well-qualified prospects that do not require the same sifting process. It also means that the number needed to fill a 2.0 pipeline is smaller than in the 1.0 world. Different times, different demands, different solutions.

Chaos Will Not Be Denied

The biggest disconnect I saw and expect to see again is the assumption that social media can be leveraged for all kinds of 1.0 tasks that culminate in 2.0 results. I respectfully disagree. There is no doubt that social media will have a part to play in all things two-dot-oh, but I don’t see clarity yet in the road to the results. Social media is not automatically a way to speed up the lead generation process, but it may be about improving the quality of the results.

Chaos has to have its say. New people, younger people who have different perspectives on life and business, as well as a heck of a lot more intuition about social media, will have a great deal to say about how all this rolls out. For now, it is well and good that we are thinking about change, because it’s necessary. It is also important that we embrace chaos and learn from our juniors.

Denis Pombriant is the managing principal of the Beagle Research Group, a CRM market research firm and consultancy. Pombriant’s research concentrates on evolving product ideas and emerging companies in the sales, marketing and call center disciplines. His research is freely distributed through a blog and Web site. He is working on a book and can be reached at [email protected].

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