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MODERN DAY LUDDITES AND THE WAR ON AMAZON

In the 19th Century a group of workers came together to smash machinery for fear that the machines were going to take over their jobs. This group, known as the Luddites, has become synonymous with a fear that automation and technology are bad because it cost people jobs. In today’s world the New Luddites are raving about the fear that machine learning and AI are going to take away jobs.

The reality is, all of those things do create a major shift in the job market. What happens to thousands of truck drivers when driverless trucks become the norm not the exception? Mechanization completely changed the face of farming a number of years ago and put many farmers “out of business”. I have been saying for some time now that decision tree-based jobs (any job that follows a set path – “if this then that”) are going to be replaced by computers.

When I provided the closing three-hour address for the Presidential Scholars the major concern on most of the groups minds was what happens when all these jobs are outsourced to technology? Some of the attendees did not share my optimism of the human spirit to find and create new ways of surviving and thriving.

Here is the reality. We are living in the biggest shift ever seen since people have been on the planet. Everything is in flux. Everything is changing. I write about companies that missed the memo concerning the cataclysmic shift in the business world in my book Beached Whale: Learning to Swim in the New Ocean. 

The shift in the way we work is a global Evolution.  I call myself an Evolutionary but the reality is we are ALL part of the shift. To rage against the machine and resist true progress is lunacy. Computers are either going to get really smart and kill us all (Hollywood’s version) OR the digital age is going to free us up from the mundane, the rote, the boring and open new vistas of imagination, creativity, and productivity never before seen. I am opting for the latter.

Breaking news …

Netflix did NOT kill Blockbuster. Blockbuster killed Blockbuster.

Uber and Lyft did not kill Taxis. Taxis killed Taxis.

Walmart did not kill Kmart. Kmart killed Kmart.

AND … drum roll …

Amazon is NOT killing all other retail outlets any more than Sears perfecting the mail order business did years ago. Amazon is simply a better mousetrap and as a result, everybody uses it! Amazon is forcing retailers to rethink their value proposition and to look for new ways to entice and attract customers (see my blog about Toy r Us and why customer experience drove their demise).

Consumers have spoken. We love the ease, speed, cost, “buy now one click”, free shipping, easy returns, and everything else about the Amazon experience. To wage war against their success is modern day Luddite-ism and is nothing short of insanity.

We are truly living in a “grow (or as I say, “reinvent”) OR die” age. Every industry is being impacted and will meet the challenge by either thriving or diving.

Re-inventors down through recent years include …

  • Farming – remember the “save the farmer” movement (which failed btw). Thanks to an interest in organic and healthy local farming is making a comeback.
  • Movie Theaters – They had to create a better experience including alcohol, food, better chairs, etc to get people away from their couch and big screen TV.
  • IBM – read Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance
  • Apple – constantly evolving with a new i device.
  • Insurtech (funny that Word is marking that as a spelling error) and Fintech are reinventing banking and insurance.

With rare exception, when you need the government to protect and defend your business you have already lost the battle.

A war on Amazon, driverless cars, AI, mechanization, etc. is a war on progress and is bad business.