Published on: June 3, 2014by Michael Sansolo
It’s both a curse and a blessing that I look for lessons everywhere in life because I’m constantly finding them. Sometimes they even come while watching my mother celebrate her 84th birthday by getting on a playground swing next to my 19-month-old great nephew.
At that moment two simple questions struck me: in what ways will little Jonathan’s life be similar to my mom’s and in how many ways will they be different. Some are obvious - Jonathan is very talkative and can already say “iPad” in recognizable tones. Technology already makes his life different and those changes will only grow with the years.
Certainly there are endless life lessons, ethical questions and even interpersonal situations that will be exactly the same for both of these relations despite the 83 years between them.
But I have to believe that when it comes to shopping, there’s little that will look the same. My mom recalls a time before the advent of supermarkets, when her neighborhood was dotted with shops for all the many needs of life largely because both cars and good home refrigeration were nascent. It wasn’t just the butcher and baker. It was everything, including the man man who lived on the street and supplied butter to the entire neighborhood.
Then again, depending on how the locavore movement evolves, it’s possible that Jonathan will grow up in a similar world. But I’m not counting on that trend ever going that far.
The reality for all of us in business is figuring out how to straddle all these divides successfully, understanding that the world of the future endlessly looks so different than the past.
Last week, Kevin wrote about Walmart’s ongoing attempts to enter the banking industry and the industry’s endless push back, plus the many ways the younger generation is making what we might consider unorthodox choices. That discussion should make us question two things.
First, the banks probably realize they have to wage this fight. If Walmart and others get into banking there is every reason to believe they will succeed. Today’s younger consumers (even those much older than toddlers) have no real concept of lines between businesses. In their memory Walmart and Walgreens (and others) have always sold food. Supermarkets always have pharmacies, gas stations have no service, and so on. Those who were once called non-traditional competitors are now part of the landscape.
Younger shoppers would probably ask why wouldn’t a store offer banking services? After all, who’s to say that Walmart isn’t a bank already for the large portion of the population using money orders and other such services?
Second, we might question why we have banks at all. Think about the falling relevance of the post office or library. Movie theaters have only survived by radically changing their business model.
Are any of us really certain that banking will exist forever? Anyone want to bet that checks, credit card or even cash will even be relevant in the world my great nephew will see when he’s 80? I can remember a time when banks closed at 3 p.m. and there were no ATMs to let us access our own money when we actually needed it. Imagine that!
The simple truth is we don’t know. When my mom was Jonathan’s age no one could have possibly predicted that she’d be learning Skype and Facebook in her 80s, would watch a flat screen television or refuse on principle to give up her flip phone. She probably thought she’d buy butter from the man down the street forever because she knew nothing else.
Thank goodness playground swings still work the same way.
Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available by clicking here .
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