Sunday, June 11, 2017

Betting on the Wrong Technology, an Error That's Easy and Expensive to Make

“We need to get Periscope!” It was our usual Monday staff meeting at a non-profit I formerly worked for, and we were again discussing the fact that attendance numbers for our weekly Friday evening program had been dwindling for months. One of our directors had discovered Periscope and was adamant that we start using it; this would fix our Friday program problems. If we reflected on history and had a devil’s advocate, as is recommended in the Carrol and Mui article, we could have avoided betting on the wrong technology, one of the ways to fail cited in their article Seven Ways to Fail Big.
In the past, when we adopted new technology in an effort to combat poor attendance, it never worked. From creating a YouTube channel to using Instagram, social media had never been the answer, so why should we think it would work now? This Periscope problem also could have been avoided if we had a devil’s advocate, which can be difficult in a small non-profit organization. In my experience, with staffs of 12 or fewer, everyone has a hand in everything, so it’s hard to bring in an outside perspective and difficult to avoid hurting people’s feelings.

We didn’t need Periscope; we needed to identify what we did better than anyone else, as is discussed in The Coherence Premium, and integrate that into our marketing to attract attendees and distinguish ourselves. In our non-profit field, of the four types of strategic resources discussed in this week’s lecture, human resources are the most critical. As Professor Zak said, it’s “our team versus your team.” We had a better team than our competitors and needed to focus on capitalizing on our team’s skills, instead of adding unnecessary tech to the mix.  While the actual technology we bet on was free, our staff time was not. This new tech strategy wasted time and resources, causing other projects to suffer.
The Walt Disney Company’s MagicBand is another example of a company that made a bet on the wrong technology, a $1 billion bet. In 2013, at the Walt Disney World Resort, the company launched MagicBand, a smart wristband with RFID technology aimed at improving visitor experience. However, this technology is somewhat dated. Eddystone, a Bluetooth technology that works with both iOS and Android phones, may have been a better bet; it's cheaper and more efficient.

Former Walt Disney COO Tom Staggs stated that MagicBand would likely not come to Disneyland in Anaheim, California, because restructuring costs would be too high. Nor would it go to Shanghai, as a high proportion of guests there have smartphones and could use an app instead of the band. Staggs said, "We’ll use it everywhere it makes sense. But we don’t want to let something we think is cool and cutting edge become a legacy item that we’re trying to drag along."[1] It seems the company is trying to avoid stubbornly staying the course, another one of the seven ways to fail big.

It’s easy for companies to fall into a tech trap, in attempts to get ahead of the competition. However, you can end up rushing into an expensive situation that’s not appropriate for your organization.


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