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The digital world will punch the channel in the mouth

Author of the New Normal paints a challenging picture for solution providers who are slow to transition to the digital world

Peter Hinssen admits he’s anything but a motivational speaker.

He told a group of channel marketers at the Cisco Velocity conference that he is a de-motivational speaker.

His message to a mostly middle-aged audience is about the new normal in the ever challenging digital world, which just happens to be the title of his book.

The author of the book The New Normal: Exploring the limits of the Digital World basically scared people straight by saying: “We have spent the past 20 years in the shallow end of the digital pool. We now have passed the half-way point and are headed for the deep end.”The message from Hinssen was quite sobering: For those executives who are now in a position of power you have been able to waddle through the digital age with no huge impact; but now its time to swim and the question is can you swim as good or better than the millennials who have grown up with technology and the Internet?

“Will you survive in the digital pool? Can you swim instead of waddle?”

Take for example email. The current workforce in general communicates extensively through email, but Hinssen is convinced that email is dead.

“Kids do not email. They think email is for losers or for old people. They use chat or MSN,” he says.

According to a recent study Hinssen cited: 58 per cent of college age kids have dropped email entirely. Hinssen says that the new generation believes in a bottom up instead of a top down information path.

Hinssen proudly calls himself a nerd. “In fact I come from a long line of nerds. My father was a nerd and my grandfather was nerd. Technology has escaped the control of the nerd. It has entered society and in this world digital stops being digital and technology stops being technology and it has all become normal,” Hinssen said during his keynote presentation at Cisco Velocity.

Here are some examples:

Danish toy maker Lego developed a Web site where you can create a design, structure, anything your imagination can come up with. Then in approximately two days the Lego pieces are delivered to your door.

When the popular Mentos/Diet Coke experiment went viral on YouTube, Mentos executives thought it was going to be disastrous. Their minds quickly changed when sales dramatically increased by 44 per cent.

Dove featured a young girl in an online video stressing that parents should have a long hard talk about their image before the beauty industry starts marketing towards them. At the same time, Greenpeace used a similar young girl to let the YouTube generation know how much environmental damage Dove has inflicted on the Earth for the advancement of its products.

In each of these examples, the customer is at the heart of the experience, Hinssen said.

Hinssen suggested that speed and data will be extremely valuable in this new digital norm.

Nike created a brand off-shoot called Nike Plus with a logo featuring the familiar Nike swoosh with a plus sign. Nike Plus started as new method to help its customers run. Nike Plus electronically tracked how people ran and where they ran through the shoes. What the Nike Plus team found was that runners usually stopped for a rest. Then a Nike Plus executive thought they could sell that data to StarBucks.

“Those are the two new rules for the new normal. Motorsports legend Mario Andretti said if everything is under-control then you are not going fast enough.”

There is also zero tolerance for digital failure. Hinssen’s example is Gmail recently went down for three hours and it made headline news on CNN. In that story, Hinssen added CNN did not report that Gmail was up for seven consecutive years.

“Velocity trumps perfection,” he said.

How good is a digital-operated car when it stops working inside a car wash? A true life story Hinssen told. He said that it took more than 90 minutes for a technician to arrive and he had to dismantle the on-board computer from underneath the car before he could begin to fix the problem.

Another example from Hinssen is the Blu-Ray technology. He said that Blu-Ray did not take off because DVD was good enough.

He introduced www.23andme.com which he calls the hottest start-up in silicon valley. This Web site asks its customers to spit in a tube and ship it off to them. What they get in return for their money is a DNA sample that indicates the diseases you will get in your lifetime and a way to get the medicine to treat it.

As for a strategy to get yourself and your company entrenched into this new digital norm, Hinssen directed people to troubled heavyweight boxer “Iron” Mike Tyson whom he believes is the most strategic digital thinker ever. Tyson said about strategy: “Sure, everyone has a strategy until they get punched in the mouth.”

Finally, Hinssen said that the IT department of the future will have people with the ethics of Mother Theresa, the IT skill of Bill Gates, the tactics of Vladimir Putin and the charisma of Pamela Anderson.

So this is the New Normal?