No Manual

Pong Owner's Manual - Page 2

Sometimes stuff breaks.  Sometimes something just behaves differently and you really are at a loss as to why.  Much of the time in my house that was computer-related and the girls learned early on an acronym that became the first line of defense:  RTFM.  Read The Freaking Manual.  Much of the time, that solved the problem, whether PC-, TV-, or car-related.  It’s even easier to do that today since even though we lose manuals they’re almost always available on-line. It’s sort of the same in business except when it’s not.
Many businesses have manuals too – best practices, policy books, you know the drill. The problem arises when there is no manual and that’s what we’re seeing every day in many of the worlds that are being fundamentally changed by digital. Media, music, book publishing, brick and mortar commerce – pick one. This is where where’s seeing the biggest struggles as the old business models have to transform and the executives leading the transformation can’t RTFM – there isn’t one.
I spent a lot of years in old media and for a long time there was, and is, a very successful way in which things were done.  Why rock the boat?  Some very smart people run the old media entities and they have many equally bright people working for them so it’s not really an issue of people being out of their depth.  However, there’s an awful lot of lineal thinking and it’s generally not the sort of entrepreneurial atmosphere than encourages risk-taking, especially when there’s no manual or anything else at which to point demonstrating a clear process to an expected result.  Scary out here!

The companies and people succeeding are the ones who can successfully rewrite the manuals they have and, in the process, recognize that the old one may not apply.  Sometimes they can do it themselves, sometimes they bring in people like me to help.  The important thing is recognizing that the manual for the older model may not work at all even if the name is similar.

What do you do when there’s no manual?  Where do you turn?

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