How has the Internet changed business?

November 04, 2012

Insights from Michael Dell, David Kelley and Lee Rainie

[source: from Discovery]

Michael Dell Chairman and CEO, Dell Inc.

Definitely changed our business in the way we communicate with customers, the way they communicate with us, the way we learn from those communications. You know, billions of communications per year, conversations with customers per year — the way we share and collaborate internally inside the organization. So one of our teams in France will have a great success with something, and they’ll share that online in our internal social network, and that information will propagate much more rapidly through the organization in kind of a horizontal flow. We sort of think about it in a context of if we knew everything that the collective “we” really know across the organization, we’d be much more cable of serving our customers in a better way.

So these kinds of tools allow us to break down those barriers and create that knowledge and that sharing much more rapidly.

David Kelley Founder and Chairman of IDEO & Founder of Stanford

The Internet changed everybody’s life, hasn’t it? The Internet is just one of those things that we use. It’s like another expert. It’s like you have your experts around you, and then you have the Internet, which accesses all the other experts in the world. So in trying to get timely information, it seems like it just makes it more efficient to talk to the most important people that you want to talk to. But for me, the big deal in the Internet has to do with keeping track of the people in my life and the timeliness. I can get just-in-time learning from them in the same way.

So I need to know something: I put out an e-mail saying “Jeez, I’d really like to know how to glue aluminum to stainless steel.” And you’re back in a second with that thing. And that has to do with the fact that they’re answering that question. The people in my network are answering that question, and they’re answering it quickly because they know I must need it. And they’re answering it quickly because they know that someday they’re going to have a question that I might be able to answer.

So it’s that kind of quid pro quo thing that the Internet provides me access to those people. So there’s just so many things that make it a perfect market for ideas. And so if you’re in the business of trading ideas, what could be better than being connected to everybody?

Lee Rainie Director, Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project

It’s hard to think of any institution that has not been disrupted by this process. If you think about it, there’s a theory of the corporation — that probably applies to non-profits too — that the competitive advantage, that pulling all sorts of people together and giving it a nice hierarchical, bureaucratic structure, pulling them together — that was the best way to amass a lot of information, sift through it, make sense of it and then churn it out for other people’s benefits. Well now, that capacity lies in the hands of individuals or much smaller networks. You don’t need lots and lots of people to gather up that information and sort through it and make sense of it. You can do it on your own or with a handful of friends.

So the disruption takes place in sort of every corporate activity that people do. At some level, there might not be major changes, particularly when you’re dealing with other individuals. But when you’re dealing with collectives of people, this is just a brand new environment almost. It’s a new ecosystem that we’re adapting to and sort of developing whatever is the communications equivalent of gills and eyeballs and upright, spine-centered walking behavior.

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