The long and the short

9 March 2009 at 8:45 am Leave a comment


Tom Ding writes:

I was fortunate enough to attend two thought-provoking, yet decidedly different events recenty: a four-day WPP training course and a conference on the Labour Party and Web2.0. Strikingly, the two were connected in quoting of Roy Amara:

“We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run.”

When Rob Norman, the CEO of WPP-owned GroupM Interaction, used the quote, he was talking about the difficulty media and advertising companies have in integrating the internet into the core of their business. Since this sentiment could equally be applied to British political parties, and that a vast amount has been written about the use of new media in the recent US election, it was not surprising that ‘Obama’ was one of the most frequently used words at Labour2.0. But even Obama couldn’t out-perform ‘Twitter‘, perhaps a perfect example of overemphasising the short-term.

For much of the event, people were making the right noises: there was talk of ‘relationship management’; of technology as a means not an end; and of the importance of openness, transparency and authenticity. However, when Stella Creasy, an impressive parliamentary party candidate in Walthamstow, reached the podium, the contrast between talk and action was profound. She likened spending time online mudslinging to the old political tactic of ‘talking to your opponents just so they cannot talk to anybody else’ and pointed instead to her weekly email to 2,000 local constituents. Her most potent insight, and one many brands could learn from, was that in these emails she showed people what she was like, rather than telling them.

At the WPP event, Chris Hirst, the Managing Director of Grey London, talked about leadership. Two lessons stood out: that conveying urgency is key to actually getting things done; and that in business ‘culture is the behaviour of the management’. Of the dozens of people who spoke at Labour2.0, it seemed that only three really understood this: Stella Creasy, Derek Draper from Labourlist and Oliver Rickman from Google.

Rickman argued that we now live in a world of ‘fast vs slow’, where we are ‘always in beta’, where doing something is almost always better than doing nothing. But most organisations lag far behind in this fast-slow world, reduced to mimicry, Google and Obama just dots on the horizon. On this video evidence though, the Labour party should be hopeful: it seems that John Prescott has at least broken into a technological jog. Better still, and rarer, is the impression that he really does understand why he is running.

Entry filed under: digital, politics. Tags: , , , .

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The Futures Company was created through the merger of Henley Centre HeadlightVision and Yankelovich in 2008. This is the blog of the new company - but the former posts from the former Henley Centre Headlightvision blog still can be found here.

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