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Paradigm Shifts: Catching the Next Wave, Or Turning Your Back On A Tsunami

When did you first become cognizant of the fact that digital music was changing everything? Before iPod? After? How long before or after?

The answer to these questions says a lot about how much attention you pay to paradigm shifts and, in the case of iPod, one that occurred right in the CE industry’s backyard.

My business is helping clients to develop strategies and tactics for new, profitable growth, and part of that is helping them see disruptive events that can make or break their business. “Make” if they recognize a game-changing event and react ahead of the curve; “break” if they don’t see what’s coming.

Let’s look at three such shifts: one in CE, one close to our industry but much more encompassing, and a third whose scope is potentially meteor-hitting-the-earth-wiping-out-all-life kind of change.

Movies on demand: A growing number of consumers are increasingly exposed to movies on (or near) demand from cable, satellite and movie download services. Too early to say with certainty that this is a paradigm shift, but I’ll bet it is, and one that portends big changes for CE.

Like what? Many things, such as the end of home viewing on physical media that was bought or rented and viewed on players whose sole or primary function is the playback of that media. A definite paradigm shift, if it happens.

Cloud computing: Space is limited so if you don’t know about leveraging the Internet to extend IT capabilities, Google it; you need to know. The Oct. 25, 2008, edition of The Economist put it this way: “[Cloud computing] will allow digital technology to penetrate every nook and cranny of the economy and of society.” It warrants repeating: “every nook and cranny of the economy and of society,” and from where I sit that unqualified pronouncement is an understatement.

And don’t think this is a lifetime away. To be sure we are in the early stages and there will be false starts, but it will happen just as certainly as Amazon — which is on the cutting edge of cloud computing —sells books. (Remember not too long ago when they weren’t making money and most thought they would go away?)

The reinvention of the world’s financial structure: Not really “meteor-hitting-the-earth-wiping-out-all-life,” but a lot of dinosaurs have and will die, leaving a yet to be defined new financial order to be inhabited by others. Now don’t panic; this is actually a good thing. There is no way the old way was sustainable. Staying that course would have been a meteor hit. I am an eternal optimist and believe we will come out of this better than we went in, and that we will do so much sooner than most now believe. But you won’t be able to go back to business as usual, unless you want to join the dinosaurs.

So along with everything else you must do, stop and think about these seismic shifts in terms of what they mean to you now as well as in the future . Those who get it right will prosper. For those who get it wrong, or worse, ignore the not so obvious, then as the sign carried by the man on the corner says, the end is near.