The Internet craze has spawned some wacky, borderline mutant strains of expensive consulting advice. This is an appalling slap in the face to venerable blue-blood institutions who peddle rarified consulting methodologies and process improvement secrets. Not that those firms have the answers either; it's just grossly unsettling that "zero base" now applies to them
instead of their clients. Counsel is coming in a steady stream of sound bites. Yesterday's pop wisdom - "If you build it, they will come" has morphed into, "They're coming; Build Something
The trouble with the Internet is it's bringing all the smart people in the world together fast in an unprecedented advice factory that knows no boundaries, no fortresses, and no time-honored tradition. Established multinationals who view the Internet as the corporate sequel to The Andromeda Strain are willing to take guidance from, well, just about anybody who is convincing and can tacitly guarantee preservation of life.
It's not survival of the fittest, it is the fastest who are making in-roads and dotting the landscape with dot-com young hopefuls and experiments from traditional companies - who, by the way, still have boards interested in meeting or beating profits estimates every 90 days.
There is an understandable correlation between the degree of CEO panic and the supply choices for Internet strategy advice. CEOs are likely to turn as quickly to their ad agency as they would to their deified management consultant; or to yield to their investment bankers who come touting their latest hot Internet professional services IPO - who, truly, has all the answers. And let's not forget the technology emperors who have gotten the company this far, so far - haven't they figured this out yet?
The trouble with this scenario is the life-threatening risk involved in making these decisions and the generous leap of faith it implies. A lot of media attention has served up an image of the Internet as the Wild, Wild, West where players stake their claim, presumably first, and blaze the proverbial trail to the New, New World. I think this metaphor isn't exactly accurate. Definitely not when it comes to Internet strategy counsel.
The Wild, Wild West was dangerous, dirty, and unforgiving. It was filled with thieves, murderers, wild animals, sometimes uninhabitable terrain, and native inhabitants who fought brutally for their homeland. Getting around was difficult... Eating three square meals was difficult... Anarchy and bullies reigned. Survivors, albeit a scruffy lot, endured considerable hardship to prevail in the New World. Best practices meant dodging bullets and avoiding gangrene. This scenario does not begin to describe today's Internet frontier. (Well, with maybe a few exceptions.)
I believe a better metaphor is the Garden of Eden where everything is beautiful, safe, abundant, rich - where fear and adversity don't exist. It's where scary conversations take place in plush resorts and rough neighbourhoods have microbreweries.
The Garden of Eden is a better setting to describe the Internet phenomenon when you consider Internet firms, startup and near-established, have little accountability or demonstrated proof of concept. They're a bit delirious from their staggering market caps and media wet kisses. Even though their business plans say, "We may never make a profit," their halls are carpeted with VC and i-bank gold.
A-hem, this is business fantasy paradise, NOT the OK Corral. Peddling heretical advice and challenging execs to take gargantuan risks is easy when you have nothing to lose.
Delicious, red apple anyone?