Does Speed Need A Speed Bump?

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Everything is moving faster. Brands must move faster.

We hear this everywhere… all of the time. Is it true? We tend to believe it, just because we hear it so often (that doesn’t make it true). Technology moves faster, so businesses must move faster too. When it comes to speed, what do we really need to move faster? Maybe judgements from the courts? Maybe medical results? Maybe how quickly a brand responds to a customer service inquiry? There may be a few others, but we could make the argument that we don’t need business to move (much) faster at all. Is the benefit of speed that we will sell things faster and get more customers? Do we really optimize against this and – with the current state of technology and consumerism – is it still a valuable metric?

Technology doesn’t move that fast (really).

I’m always reminded of what Kevin Kelly (Wired founder, author, futurist, etc…) says (paraphrasing here): “The future happens very slowly, then all at once.” Are things really moving that fast? We’ve had a commercialized Internet for how long? Amazon started in 1994, how many brands still struggle with ecommerce? Social media has been around since the early 2000s, how many brands are just getting started with content marketing? Mobile? Facebook and Google ads? I could go on and on. Technologies usually sit for decades and evolve over long periods of time. Brands feel the pressure of speed, not because technology is moving too fast, but because they are (mostly) trying to catch up once adoption hits critical mass. Don’t confuse that issue with the need to move fast.

Let’s put an end to speed.

There’s a better way to solve your brand challenges today (and speed ain’t it). Here are two better metrics for business today:

  1. Smarter. If I could change one business value/metric, these days, I would change “speed” for “smarter.” There are not many businesses that I want to move quicker, but almost every brand that I interact with could be much more shrewd, rational and prudent. This is across the board. From their messaging to their sales to the after-sales care. If the c-suite pushed their people – and the lines of business – to be smarter (instead of faster), there would be a direct impact on the bottom line. I would be willing to bet on it.
  2. Better. We live in interesting times (as the proverb goes). Stuff (for the most part) is good/very good. What gets layered on top of good/very good stuff (products and services) usually pushes things into a place where those Net Promoter scores start weaving a tale that the brand is doing more than enough. Maybe I’m just being a market of one, but I could make the argument that a focus on how the organization (people, products, services, etc…) thinks about “better” over the baseline desire to ensure customer satisfaction could (and should) be of paramount concern. Would you prefer more speed or something better? Seems simple enough to me, but how many brands do you know that truly focus on better (and not on speed) – each and every day?

Don’t blame Amazon.

This focus on speed is not the fault of Amazon or the web… or ecommerce… or mobile… or artificial intelligence. We blame technology and connectivity for creating this consumer that now has unreasonable demands (“why can’t brands respond instantly, if I have tweeted at them?” or “why should I pay for shipping?” or “why can’t it not be here within a few hours”…). True, consumers have become intolerable to slow and bad service. It might be easy to point fingers at technology and speed, but if the focus shifted away from logistics and ease to order towards making things that are smarter and/or better, what kind of game changer (I hate that phrase) might that look like?

Let’s just agree that speed isn’t that big of a deal anymore. Being smarter and better? Now, there’s a worthy challenge and pursuit.