Sunday, August 20, 2006

Harvey Mackay. Telephone Phobia. Blogs.

"What would I do with a blog?" a business person growls.

"You have a blog? What's that?" a friend asks foolishly.

We shake our heads in disbelief. We know they've seen the news reports on blogs and bloggers. We know they are aware of blogs in relation to Dan Rather, Trent Lott, Howard Dean, and MySpace.

Somehow, their alleged ignorance doesn't ring true. It's like telling a lazy person they need to get a job, and they say, "Uh, now what exactly is a job?"

It's the Kingdom of Mediocrity raising its ugly head again.

There's always resistance to change and anything new. No matter how exciting, beneficial, or pleasant it is. Some people stubbornly refuse to learn. They seek illusory comfort zones, easy routine, unchallenging ruts.

Business people can't understand the value of blogging? But CEOs and entrepreneurs should be leading the way in this new technology. Professional people should be ahead of the curve when it comes to blogs, wikis, podcasting, and videocasting.

No shock. Business people, years ago, also didn't understand the purpose of a telephone!

Old Time Business Owner: "I don't want customers calling me on the phone. Why waste my time jabbering in a phone conversation? I want customers to visit my store, not call me on the phone. It's just a gimmick, a fad, a trendy flash in the pan. It will not last."

If you think I'm kidding or stretching the facts to fit my argument, check this out.

Quotations from the week 1 column of one of my mentors, the business author, CEO, and motivational speaker Harvey Mackay.

I call this Telephone Phobia, because the disparaging remarks against the telephone were probably based on a fear of how it would disrupt Business As (Yawn) Usual.

Hard to imagine the telephone as disruptive technology?

Well, in my research I came across the fact that preachers used to preach against bathtubs, saying they're a tool of the devil, because daily bathing makes you look at your own naked body too often. They thought bathtubs and frequent bathing would lead to fornication and adultery!

The new and miraculous is always ridiculed, at first. Then, when it catches on, guess who ends up looking totally stupid?

Alexander Graham Bell actually thought the telephone would primarily be used for news updates and music concert broadcasts.

How wrong the pundits can be. Even inventors have trouble envisioning the future of their new tech.


Alexander Graham Bell took his share of ribbing with his telephone:

“It’s only a toy.”

--Gardniner Green Hubbard, founder of the National Geographic Society, upon seeing the telephone in 1876. Perhaps the more significant element of this criticism was that Hubbard was Bell’s future father-in-law!

“What use could this company make of an electrical toy?”

--Spoken by the president of Western Union as he turned down the exclusive rights to the telephone offered by Bell in 1876 for $100,000. Didn’t I just read that Western Union recently sent its last telegram?

The company further stated, “The ‘telephone’ has too many intrinsic shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us.”

“Although it is interesting as an interesting novelty, the telephone has no commercial application.” John Pierpoint Morgan, banker and financier, to Bell. I wonder what the bankers and brokers at J P Morgan Chase and Co. would do without their interesting novelties today?

Other inventions that we take for granted faced similar doubts:

“Moving pictures need sound as much as Beethoven symphonies need lyrics.”

--You might expect as much from Charlie Chaplin in 1928.

“The aeroplane will help peace in more ways than one . . . it will have a tendency to make war impossible.”

--None other than Orville Wright!

“The problem with television is that people must sit and keep their eyes glued to a screen. The average American family doesn’t have time for it.”

--The New York Times in 1939, after a demonstration at the 1939 World’s Fair.

So, the next time someone scoffs at blogs, just remember what arrogant know-it-alls said about other inventions.

Now I'm going to try to convince Harvey Mackay to start a blog. He's got a web site and a podcast. But his weekly columns would work better in a blog format. Wish me luck. Will report on my results.

Even mentors deserve some advice from their humble devotees, right?


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