Economist John Kenneth Galbraith once said, “Faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof.”
Another famous man (though not so much as an economist), George Carlin said, “I put a dollar in a change machine. Nothing changed.”
In periods of disruptive change — and we’re smack at the beginning of one right now, driven by dramatic improvements in machine learning and artificial intelligence —one of the hardest tasks to accomplish is to move past the lip service to the disruption that’s taking place, to actually change the way you look at the world.
Within the content space, many of us are getting pretty good at talking about disruption. But at its core, our change in vocabulary from “enterprise content management” to “content services” is just that: giving lip service to change.
The challenge isn’t that the labels need refining. Rather, it’s our frame of reference in the content space — the lenses through which we view the world — that need to change.
I’d like to offer three of these “lenses,” although I’m sure there are more.
Lens 1: Big Content + New Tools = New Challenges
We are gathering information at an unprecedented scale. This isn’t new. What is new is that for the first time we have tools to actually make sense of it.
We haven’t thought through the ethics of what all of this unprecedented accumulation of information, and the tools to analyze it, actually means. Until we do, we will continue to careen from one privacy crisis to another, and from one ham-handed political response to another.
We are learning that being cavalier about the “stewards” of our information — who manages our data, what they do with it, whether they are in reality a potential competitor, and whether they monetize OUR data — has consequences. People in the content and information governance community have experiences that are very germane to this challenge.
Lens 2: Content Is the Tail, Not the Dog
Those of us who have lived and made careers and built companies on the content management side of the information management continuum are about to enter a much bigger world. The core challenge for those selling content management solutions isn’t to figure out how to convince people our traditional process automation solutions can somehow be relabeled “digital transformation.” Transformation is more than a more efficient way of doing the same things for the same customers. That’s not a bad thing, it’s a tactical thing.
The strategic challenge for content solution providers is to help organizations with a digital transformation mandate understand the pivotal role content plays, radically change how they deliver content capabilities, and help these struggling organizations turn digital transformation wishes into concrete plans. Yes, content management is the tail in this story, not the dog. But it’s a tail on a massive dog.
Lens 3: The Curse of Knowledge
I’m fascinated with the “Curse of Knowledge,” the tendency of people with very detailed and specific knowledge to unknowingly assume the subject of their communications has the background to understand what they are talking about.
Look no further than the content management community for proof. Many of the folks I deal with in the content management community, myself included, have been doing this for a long time. The trouble with this experience is we describe what we do in a special insider shorthand which I fear leaves many in the world of AI and ML and digital transformation scratching their heads — they just don’t know what we’re talking about.
This is such a shame, because this ought to be THE moment for content technologies. Content plays a pivotal role in a market that is so much larger than anything we’ve experienced before. But we can only take part if we look at the world through a new set of lenses.