Welcome to the first installment of The Guru Review! Every Tuesday I’ll be bringing an important book or article and its author to your attention, and giving you a quick synopsis of the key ideas and takeaways. Let us know what you think!
It’s hard to keep up with the pace of technological change. It’s even harder to know how best to exploit that change to move our businesses forward. And it’s harder still to get a good bead on the future, what it might look like, and how it might work, given the emerging trends. Now comes Nick Bilton, author of I Live in the Future & Here’s How It Works: Why Your World, Work, and Brain Are Being Creatively Disrupted (Crown Business, September 14, 2010), to help us figure it all out.
Nick is the Lead Technology Writer for the New York Times Bits Blog and a reporter for the paper. His background spans design, user interface, journalism, and even hardware hacking. He previously worked as a researcher in The Times R&D Labs, looking at the media landscape two to 10 years out.
The central message and big idea of I Live in the Future is that content is king and technology its handmaid, but people pay for an experience. The effects of new technology and new media may be disruptive, but it’s in a good and positive way. The playing field is level, monolithic messages have given ground to two-way narratives, conversations are facilitated by new media, and the ability to tell a compelling story rules the future.
- Go with the tech flow. The gloom and doom espoused by technophobes—from trains to phonographs to television—has never played out historically.
- Adapt or evaporate.
- Immediacy is the new value: new media is changing how we consume; in fact, it’s creating the “consumnivore,” an animal with a voracious appetite for lots of little tasty storybits now.
- Get ready for hyper-personalization and “me” economics: everything, everyone, everywhere.
- Get ready for uber-connectivity—even your socks will be connected.
Tidbits: Bilton cancelled his own print subscription to the Times, which didn’t go over all that well with his employer.
Liked Most: Nick practices what he preaches, has embraced modern technology, and has taken the business book reading experience to the next level by engaging the reader in several different ways beyond the printed page. For example, each chapter has a QR code that you snap with your smartphone, and it takes you to other forms of content, including video, book excerpts and blogs. There’s an iTunes app that allows another level of interactivity, and the app goes beyond the typical author vanity app (i.e. advertising and various feeds) to add content and value...for free.
Liked Least: There’s not much to find fault with. Maybe the title, if anything. The subtitle is far more accurate, relevant and interesting. Nick clearly lives in, and exploits well, the present creative disruption happening.
Must Read: The epilogue, entitled “Why They’re Not Coming Back.” It’s masterful and spot on. Why this wasn’t put at the front of the book is a bit of a mystery. If you read nothing else, read this. If you’re a blogger, blog it. Otherwise, get the free app (link below) and email, Tweet, Facebook and text the link. I did.
Quotable: “As we move to the next iteration of storytelling, as a great flattening is taking place between consumer and creator, the medium will no longer be the message. The medium will be pervasive. The message will be amateur, professional, and infinite. And it will all exist as a mutual collection of bytes, snacks, and meals...It’s time to reorganize, rethink, and get back to the business of storytelling.”
Best For: Anyone whose work or life hinges on the ability to tell a story, shape content and experiences, engage with users and customers, and build trust. In other words, everyone.
What Others Say: “A bold and provocative look at the future of storytelling. It’s about the virtues of video games, the science of cocktail parties, and the new business model of journalism. It’s about a world in which the medium is mostly irrelevant, and the message is everything. Read this book if you want to get your message right.” —Jonah Lehrer, author of the New York Times bestseller How We Decide.
Rating: 9.5 (out of 10)
Matthew E. May is the author of The Shibumi Strategy: A Powerful Way to Create Meaningful Change, forthcoming from Jossey-Bass. He blogs at MatthewEMay.com, and you can follow him on Twitter @matthewemay.