I'm a big fan of Zipcar, as those around me know. I just reserved one for tomorrow, and since I waited so long, I had to choose a pickup waiting at a local McDonalds, instead of my usual Prius down the street. But I didn't mind since it took me only about 25 seconds to find it, book it, and have a car ready for me tomorrow at 5:30 AM.
As I did this I was thinking about speed. Satisfying the speed of business is not about perfection -- it is about things being good enough, provided they are fast enough.
When I was in graduate school at the University of Washington I was building a model of the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river basin, which aside from being fun to say, is a critical water basin around Atlanta, Georgia and Florida. I needed some commerce and industry data for the model, and was facing a tight deadline. I called my friend at Morgan Stanley, and he connected me with his office librarian, who gave me the commerce data I needed within the hour. A bit shady, but I got what I needed. Today I can get in from Google in minutes.
As time and attention in the workplace continues to fracture, it is harder to anticipate what we need in advance of when we need it. Those of us whose daytime is slayed by meetings often need to ask our unanticipated questions in the evening, when our corporate lifelines are largely closed. This demands a new kind of decision support system, where the gap between question and answer is reduced to minutes, and reliance on IT disappears (within this gap) disappears.
Luckily, technology is catching up. But this is just as much about a cultural shift as a technology shift, and that is where the true promise is -- a new culture of empowerment, transparency and accountability is emerging, and together with technology it can really, really speed us up. More on that later.