Esther Dyson Interview

[via Ganesh Bhandarkar] Excerpts from the ACM Ubiquity interview where Esther Dyson talks about the coming PC Forum which has as its theme “The Big Picture in Focus”:

The theme points to a tension between the desire, on the one hand, of wanting to be Bill Gates and build something that’s horizontal and universal and repurposeable for everything and on the other hand the reality that in order to solve problems and add real value, you increasingly need to be domain-specific.

For example, you need to understand the medical market, or you need to understand how salespeople work, or how to re-orient a supply chain in real time when a factory has a problem. Even though everybody in the industry says, “Oh, we sell the solution,” they’re just flattering themselves; in reality, all they can sell is tools for the customer and its CIO to build a solution with. That solution includes making sure the marketing and salespeople talk to each other, the salespeople actually use the automation tools, and the CEO has a good strategy. These are the things the vendors have no control over, but they can’t sell effectively unless they understand the CIO’s mindset and challenges.

Think about industry strategy, seismic change, the shift from the paranoia of the last couple of years; realize that business is not just about cutting costs anymore, but also about increasing revenues. But the focus has shifted to domain knowledge, and is no longer on generic horizontal activities. The term “in focus” makes the point that you’ve got to do something in particular and be concrete about what kind of value both you and your company can add. One of the basic messages is: You can’t sell generalizations and make big promises anymore. You’ve got to get down to cases. It has to do with the basic tension between wanting to be grandiose and solving all the world’s problems, and realizing that one can do more good by gardening one garden than by thinking you can fix all the gardens in the world. And of course the same is true for technology.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.