I went skiing last week. My last time out was about 13 years ago and while the mountains are pretty much the same, a lot of the technology has changed. I used to own my own pair of skis - straight, 195. I still own my Turtle Fur hat. Lift tickets were stickers that you attached to your jacket using a flimsy wire hanger. I sold my skis a while back, so I rented a pair - they're all parabolic/shaped now. Helmets aren't just for kids anymore. And the lift tickets aren't stickers anymore - they're RFID cards that open automated gates.
On my trip, I finished reading Michael Lewis's The Big Short, which I bought because I wanted to understand what happened with the subprime mortgage crisis. What's amazing is that some people could see what was on the horizon as early as 2004. They might not have been able to predict that the crisis would have been triggered precisely in 2008 - but they could see it coming. To be fair, the "crisis" might not have happened at all if Deutsche Bank, The Fed, AIG, or others had acted differently - but hindsight is 20/20.
Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of hearing Richard Cooperstein discuss the early days of Facebook and its global expansion. Facebook's dominance as the world's largest social network was anything but certain in the site's early days. It has taken years for the network effect to build and allow Facebook to surpass localized sites like Bebo, Orkut, and hi5 in popularity.
Change takes time. What's identified today may take months or years to materialize and become practical. The secret is to not be too early and figuratively fly too close to the sun - why do Groupon and LivingSocial work today, when Mercata and Mobshop did not - or be too late and lose all hope of catching up, like Blockbuster losing to Netflix (and Netflix almost heading too far in the opposite direction).
Change takes patience. Give up too soon and there's money and opportunity left on the table. Long ago, I remember seeing a diagram of how RFID works in Business 2.0 magazine long ago - coincidentally produced by XPLANE who I would later be working with - a decade later, RFID is a reality on a ski slope.
Things may not always work out in their original forms. Virtual worlds and augmented reality have come and gone; 3D TV seems like a fad. But formerly shiny objects like vehicle telematics, intelligent consumer devices, and tablet computers are quietly weaving their way into our lives.
Social business, while early, has been accepted as useful mainly on faith. However, we're seeing proof of success emerge. But I wonder what else has been dismissed too quickly that we'll be using in 12 years as part of daily life...