I had the privilege of being in Germany when the Berlin wall fell. My father served 25 years in the military and 9 of those were in the Cold War era of then West Germany. At that time, West Germany was one of the most dynamic economies in the world. East Germany was a communist, economically struggling society. When the wall came down, hundreds of thousands of East Germans crossed into freedom.
One of the lighter sides of the whole ordeal was seeing the disparity between the two German peoples. I can remember traveling down the autobahn. There are no speed limits on the German autobahn. They were made for fast BMW’s and I would love to drive mine there for the pure speed thrill. That was what West Germans were like.
The East Germans had one type of car – the Trabant. It was a small boxy car that barely looked like a car. It resembled more of a toy. My friends and I would laugh and point at the contraption going down the autobahn. The car represented the shortcomings of a failed system. It was completely humorous to see it trying to get in the fast lane when it was inherently limited by design.
The “Trabi,” as it was known, has become obsolete as East Germans became exposed to the modern era of automobiles. The bar was apparently far higher. What was true for an industrial product is also true for the information age. We run across organizations continually who are trying to drive in the fast lane with a Trabant. They use knowledge tools, processes and techniques from an old world system to tackle the complexity of today:
- Connecting with the customer
- Attracting a customer
- Building team collaboration
- Leading teams
- Winning sales
Examples of this old system are:
- Using Microsoft Exchange and Outlook to organize information and collaborate.
- Trying to sell with Act or Goldmine
- Sending e-newsletters from a simple email program
- Having an expensive and elaborate phone system
- Having an expensive IT guy to maintain a server for an ambiguous reason
The old systems were built for organization. The new systems of today are built for speed and collaboration. The new economy is an autobahn. Getting in the game with a Trabant means you will get passed by with the BMW’s of the world.
Here is a statement of where things are at and are headed:
“By 2012, desktop software will be a quaint throwback, replaced by cloud computing.” – Fast Company
If you do not know what cloud computing is, it is because you have a Trabant mentality. You are likely doing it with online banking, Facebook, or a myriad of Software-as-a-Service offerings. It is not about the software anymore. That is a commodity which is maintained, upgraded and distributed by expert companies. It is about success in your business with the right combination of tools, process, and talent. Miss any one of these and you will experience business failure. By the way, a lot of people do miss; they think it is about the tool.
If you are feeling overwhelmed or are not able to get your business where you want it, think about this – your problem has been solved before. The question is whether you can recognize what you are driving and what kind of driver you are.
It is pure delight to help organizations get ahead. We help them send the Trabant to the junkyard and get into a new 5 series for the fast lane. Every time this happens, someone gets ahead. They are more productive, grow sales and have more peace of mind. If you are used to driving a Trabant, you may never conceive of the concept of pure speed and exhilaration. That is, until you get passed on the business autobahn by your competitors. Shatter the glass ceiling of your productivity. Get the right know-how and tools to succeed and you may realize how hard you are making it for yourself because of ignorance or inaction.