Look, Ma! More Technology. And a few other musings on the New Year.

By John DeBello, President & Chief Creative Officer

Technology is your best friend. Your worst nightmare. Sometimes the answer, always the question, and, in the right hands, the shortest distance between you and your customer.

A year ago, anyone could make a video call. They didn’t. Tomorrow, everyone will make a video call. They shouldn’t. (More later).

A nationally syndicated columnist once told me “I have the greatest job in the world. I’m paid to opine, whine and predict without being accountable to anyone for anything.” So, in that spirit, I offer a few unaccountable opinions (no whining) free of charge from a guy once impressed by the latest $300 calculator:

Innovation is old hat. Sometime around 900 CE someone got the bright idea of adding stirrups to a saddle, thereby revolutionizing the transportation industry. Even so, it still took Charlemagne and Thomas Jefferson pretty much the same time to gallop from here to there. Then Richard Trevithick rocked TJ’s world by creating the first steam-powered locomotive engine. And so on.

Takeaway: Innovation is a progressive evolution. (Hey, we still measure in horsepower.) The events of 2020 simply accelerated technology, they didn’t revolutionize it. (So buy Tesla. Or not.)

Disruptive events speed disruptive solutions. Nobody wants a pandemic. Or an oil spill, a hurricane or a pair of world wars. But high speed, breakthrough advances in healthcare, environmental solutions, infrastructure design and social policies are directly attributable to the imperative of “We need it now.”

Takeaway: Us humans are remarkably responsive when absolutely necessary (which is why we invariably study the night before the test. Except for my wife, who studies well in advance, and also reads the manual cover-to-cover before operating a device. But she’s weird. And Austrian.) McKinsey reports that a full 10 years of IT adoption has taken place in the last six months. That pace won’t likely continue…but do your part to make it so.

(Better) information, please. Some years ago I created a ‘vision’ movie for the nation’s Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA). A senior analyst told me “Back in the day, my mission was to gather intel. Now, it’s to separate the good from all the garbage.”

Takeaway: Bombarded with information, our ability to act decisively can be compromised by competing narratives. Analytics are powerful--but they’re also subject to the biases of information input. Don’t apologize for ‘gut’ decisions taken during a ‘recovering’ 2021. As your broker says: “Past performance is not indicative of future results.”

Home vs Office (or What vs Where). In 2020, Loma engaged directly with private and public sector clients who have a collective global workforce of more than a million. While each organization observed pandemic protocols, no two shared identical business policies and procedures. As a strategic communications partner, we were able to closely observe (and loudly hear) many perspectives.

Takeaway: Some people thrive at home, while others are less effective sans workplace interaction and defined process. Technology doesn’t automatically improve one's ability to succeed in a non-supervised environment. In fact, enhanced IT may simply exacerbate that difference. The ideal remote-to-home work ratio depends on the business model and the individual. The tools are practical--not magical. Plan accordingly.

Nobody Knows Anything. William Goldman’s famous saying about Hollywood applies to pretty much everything. Pick a subject (tech, sports, politics, economics, the weather) and try to find one that offers any sense of certainty. A surfeit of surprises is an ever-present source of panic for some--and possibilities for others.

Takeaway: There is no ‘new normal.’ There’s only the now normal. So, seize the moment. And about that video call? Studies say the good ol’ fashioned, omnipresent business meeting is now taking 10% longer thanks to the enthusiastic embrace of the video conference call. Suggestion: Google ‘Alexander Graham Bell’ and then employ his invention to disrupt and innovate. At speed!