“What is the curve?”

Thus opened the July, 2017, installment of Webolutions’ Executive Roundtable luncheon series, which promised an engaging discussion on Staying Ahead of the Curve.

Several examples of “curves” were given.

In a meeting room with a backdrop spotlighting iAccelerating Growth in Technologynnovators in communication including Johannes Gutenberg, Alexander Graham Bell, and Steve Jobs; in the afterglow of Amazon.com’s acquisition of Whole Foods and on the day that company publicly identified Blue Apron as a competitive target, Webolutions Founder and CEO John Vachalek displayed the curve representing the accelerated growth in technology and asked the group, “Is it possible to stay ahead of this?”

One attending CEO shared his struggle of going to market with a technology product that was “of its time, and on the technology curve, but ahead of our target customers’ ability to easily comprehend.” (Vachalek, who started a website development company in 1994, offered empathy.) Another attendee plainly admitted he was knowingly operating well behind the curve: “I recall reading a Webolutions article several years ago,” he noted, “about the importance of making your website mobile-friendly. We still haven’t gotten around to that.”

These comments and others framed a discussion around Dr. Everett Rogers Technology Adoption Curve, whereby the former executive would identify as an Innovator, and the latter a Laggard. It should be noted the gentleman smiled and responded politely when asked if he still owned a rotary phone. This curve, all agreed, applied not just to technology but to the adoption of any new idea.

Diffusion of Innovation

The executives concluded one problem with such diagrams is they are one-dimensional. Today’s executive confronts technology curves, adoption curves, innovation curves, culture development curves, employee satisfaction and retention curves, workflow tool and process curves. Within the curve for a technology product, noted the group, progress along multiple curves must be managed. Personal computer external and internal hardware curves, user expectation curves, operating system curves, social media curves, web and mobile application curves, integration curves…

Additional discussion threads included:

  • The challenges of managing disparate technology adoption levels among multigenerational workforces.
  • Driverless cars. The emerging development is distrusted by some attendees, and welcomed as inevitable social change and market disruption by others. Attending Homeland Security experts (both of them) changed all perspectives by offering a scenario in which malicious hackers anonymously and remotely weaponized the technology.
  • Means by which people are pulled along the adoption curve. “Glamping”—glamorous camping—provided an example of how as products change, experiences and expectations change, bringing changes in decision-making roles with them.

The number of curves identifiable in any of these discussion points is staggering. For these reasons, attendees rather remarkably agreed, businesses and organizations increasingly are shedding “Five Year Plans,” choosing instead to look forward 24 months or less, constantly monitoring internal and external developments impacting progress thereto, and adjusting accordingly.

Summary
Executives are continuously managing against multiple multi-dimensional curves. We seek to align them and influence progress along them. “Staying ahead” of these curves is not always optimal. It is frequently impossible. Lessons are available, noted one attendee, from curves that, “have truly changed human behavior.”

July, 2017 Attendees

About Webolutions Executive Roundtable Series
Webolutions Executive Roundtable series fosters community among executives confronting similar challenges. Each discussion includes a catered lunch and a professionally-moderated discussion with 10-15 selected private- and public-sector executives.

Peer networking is encouraged. Sales presentations are prohibited. There is no cost to attend. Attendance is by invitation only.

Denver-area executives who would find value in contributing and listening to conversations like these are asked to contact Mike Hanbery, Director of Marketing and Business Development, Webolutions, by calling 303-300-2640, emailing [email protected], or completing the brief form on this page.