Because it’s there

Ian Waters from OMNI argues that, for the mobility industry to continue to thrive, change needs to be more than embraced, it must be driven.

When George Leigh Mallory, a British mountaineer, was asked 1923 why he wanted to be the first to climb Mount Everest he answered: ‘because it’s there’. It was that drive, that ambition that made him extraordinary. Perhaps it’s time the moving industry had a little more of the Mallory spirit. Let me explain.

Every business relishes differentiation: something that makes it different from its competitors. But how many actually strive for it? In the moving industry, in the past at least, very few. Movers were content to stay comfortably, the same. When new technology or ideas came along, they took the attitude, ‘we don’t need to do that, so we won’t’. Mallory didn’t need to climb Everest, but he did.

Movers were pushed into change. When a technology got to the point where companies were going to be left behind, they jogged to catch up with a bandwagon that had already receded around the next bend. Is the industry much different today? A little, I think. I believe that some companies at least are beginning to see that they need to take a different approach if they are to prosper, long term.

The problem is the rate of change; and it’s not just the technology. Along with technological change we have seen cultural change on a scale never seen before. The customer of today is not the same as 20 years ago. Countless articles have been written about the changing attitude of corporations and their millennial employees towards globalisation and their use of technology, there’s no need to bore you by repeating them here. What is important, however, is our reaction to that change.

We have new technologies at our fingertips right now that are gaining momentum. Virtual surveys, for example, are being used by some; vehicle and shipment tracking is available but rarely used; some companies have embraced the opportunities offered by smartphones, but how many have really pushed the technology as far as it will go?

In my opinion, for this industry to truly prosper, as the rate of change continues to accelerate, a change of thinking is required. We need to go from ‘what should we do’ to ‘what can we do’. It could be argued that computer technology is unique in being invented without a purpose, sound in the knowledge that the applications would come. There seems to be little real evidence that Thomas John Watson Sr., CEO of IBM, really did estimate the world market for computers to be ‘five’, but he and many others could never have imagined the ubiquity of their products.

We too need to look to what is possible with the opportunities we have and be bold, take some chances. We should embrace technology and be innovative in its application. If there is anything we can do that will make our customers’ lives a little easier, we should try. Many, of course, will fail. Mallory, indeed, died on the mountain. But the prospect of failure is not an excuse for inaction, particularly today, when inaction represents the virtual certainty of failure. By taking chances, by being inventive, we might discover the golden nugget leads on to fortune.

Today our industry is being commoditised and disrupted. I believe we are only a moment away from revolutionary disruption that will force us into the kind of change we do not want. The only way to protect ourselves is by becoming the disrupter ourselves, leaving no door open to those potential usurpers that covet the air we breathe. They are there – just waiting to pounce.

Which is why, for example, OMNI is supporting FIDI and IAM in developing new communication standards for the mobility industry under the name of the Moving Mobility Standards Alliance (MMSA). It’s ambitious, many will prophesy failure, but I believe we must try. If we succeed, it could represent a huge leap forward, revolutionising the way in which the whole industry communicates worldwide. Importantly, the technology is already available, we just need the will to make it work for us.

May I share another quotation: “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.” That was Henry Ford. 100 years on I think Henry is wrong. Today, if you always do what you have always done, you’ll be gone in no time. Today, you must be different. But with change comes opportunity. For some this new market with its new technology and new customers will be a rich seam. But if you want to be a part of it, you’ll need to step back, take a breath and work out how you can embrace technology and use it creatively – because you can, because you must, because it’s there.

There is a tide in the affairs of men.
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.

Julius Caesar Act 4, scene 3