Saturday, January 21, 2012

Aligning goals

Many problems that we have today are problems of not aligning goals among multiple groups of people.  Often we think about our goal from our own perspective and fail to see it from someone else's perspective.

Let's look at SOPA, for example.  Movie industry is looking at the online piracy as something to be stopped and regulated.  It makes total sense if you approach the online piracy problem from copyright enforcement perspective.  As content creator and distributor, you have the right to profit by allowing audience to access the content.

iTune is a classic example of aligning all parties' goal
while adapting to changing consumer environment;
estimated illegal mp3 sharing has gone down
since its launch
On the other hand, movie watchers, consumers have very different perspective.  What they are interested in is getting access to the content in an appealing way.  Although they understand the copyright protection and acknowledge download of movie files is wrong, what they are after is the film.  People just want to watch movies.  And they want to watch them when they want and how they want.  Whether they are on crowded subway heading back home on their smartphone, or pulling out a tablet on the bed before going to sleep, people want to be able to watch good movie.

What movie industry is not seeing is shift in pattern of how people watch movie these days.  Tablet computers are now fast becoming a biggest consumer electronics segment, and half the US populations are estimated to have smartphones now.  If we simply go after shutting down the illegal file-sharing sites without addressing the consumer's shifting need, we are treating the symptom but not the root cause.

Instead, what is needed to fight online piracy is an easy way to get access to content legally and cheaply when people want content on the device people want.  Otherwise, we would be setting ourselves up for cat-and-mouse game of ever escalating legal enforcement and ever more evasive techniques to share illegal files.

I think this failure to see the problem from all parties' perspective happens quite often in real life.  Because it's difficult to change the business models and organization to adapt to evolving consumer environment.  It forces established businesses to get into new industry, and this means taking a risk of reducing the core business to launch unproven new venture.

Another example is allowing social media usage in enterprise.  Players are employees, managers, compliance officers, IT and security officers.  While compliance officers, IT and security officers want to lock down the access to social media for all employees, managers and employees are seeing the clear need to be on social media to connect with people.  It may be connecting with a prospect, hearing from existing customers or even reaching out to personal network to find a candidate for open position.

Similar to SOPA example, simply blocking the access to social media cannot be the answer, and everyone realizes that it's not because all involved parties know there is no way that they can block all social media activities (how are you going to block me from tweeting on my personal iPad?).  The answer has to be recognizing the shifting consumer environment and figuring out a way to embrace the change so that there could be a managed way to use social media.

We have to stop looking at problems as problems.  If we step out from our role and look at the problem from different party's perspective, we just might be able to see how to solve it for everyone involved.  Then it will be a much more lasting solution for all.

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