Business Model Trend #4- Too Few Geniuses, Too Many Drones

Business Model Trend #4- Too Few Geniuses, Too Many Drones

Technology has allowed businesses to automate processes to such a large extent that under-educated and under-skilled employees have little value other than hand-tasks that machines cannot do.  Fifteen years ago, a highly skilled customer service representative was a valued employee.  Today, companies have created a workflow process that allows anyone of average skill to perform almost as well as the superstar.  Simply say the magic words as they appear on screen.  No need to think about it; the computer already knows the right thing to say.

In this example, the rank and file employee has been relegated to a slot filler.  However, the genius that wrote the workflow process is invaluable.  Through technology and improved business tools, one person can leverage their “genius” over hundreds of average folks.

This very example was demonstrated in the George Clooney movie “Up in the Air.”  George Clooney racked up 10 million air miles carting his special talent around the world.  Then, in steps the 23-year old college hotshot with her radical business model changer.  Instead of sending the hotshot to fire people in person, she created a video-based process handled by a customer service rep reading from a script.  It may seem cold, but it did work.

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Her new business model replaced a highly-skilled, highly paid, and expensive travel budgeted George Clooney with an ordinary customer service rep sitting at a desk in Omaha.  Clooney’s position probably cost $500,000 a year fully burdened.  Her business model probably cost $50,000 per year and could do more work with less talent because the travel was removed.

Computerization has made what used to be exceptional talent rather ordinary.  As technology improves faster than employee skill, the “bar” for what an excellent or super-talented employee looks like will be much, much higher.  Therefore, the number of people that will be truly talented under the new definition will continue to dwindle. 

Competition for the truly gifted will intensify.  Savvy business model architects will understand this dynamic and reward average skill with average pay but reward the few geniuses with exceptional pay and rewards.


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