Ireland must embrace failure digital conference hears
03 March 2010 16:38
The lessons that can be learnt even from failure was one of the key themes discussed at a major digital conference held by UCD Smurfit School earlier today. Minister Eamon Ryan opened the conference by calling for competition and collaboration.
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"Digital technology works well when it is collaborative," he said. "We will have to make mistakes. We need to take more risks. There is a terrible risk averseness in the public sector. ‘Don’t make a mistake’ is ingrained. We need to make mistakes and reward people who try something new. We need to be the change that we want to see ourselves.”
The conference, entitled Digital Landscapes: Transforming Business Online, was attended by 400 business leaders with speakers including Dylan Collins, Jolt Online; John Herlihy, Google; Colm Long, Facebook; Damien Mulley, Mulley Communications; and Kim Majerus, Cisco.
Panel discussions covered a number of key areas but centred around how how businesses can maximise their online potential. For example, one key theme was that mistakes happen.
“We need to be more aggressive," said Damien Mulley of Mulley Communications on this. "Stupid road blocks slow things down. People should be encouraged to start up companies and see how they go. The Irish mentality of shame of failure needs to change. The question after something goes wrong should be ‘what are you going to do next’."
John Herlihy of Google said that we need to celebrate failure.
"A fast death shows you where not to go. However, once you know something is wrong, kill it,” he said.
This was echoed by Dylan Collins, Jolt Online, who said, “We have to be proud of our mistakes - It’s how we learn.” He added that businesses that fail will create a generation of highly experienced individuals who will go on to set up more companies or be invaluable hires for others. Kim Majerus, Cisco, noted, “If you are 100% successful all the time, you are doing something wrong. You are not being creative. You are not taking risks.”
There was also a lot of discussion on government’s Role in the smart economy. A number of speakers spoke about the approach Ireland should take in becoming a digital hub. Martin Murphy, Hewlet-Packard, said, “The government needs to articulate why companies should come here, put roots down here and invest here. That is my message to government. Ireland needs to not just get competitive but to become super-competitive and we need an educational system that supports this with a huge level of urgency.”
Dylan Collins said that he believes there should be a zero percent tax on all virtual items on the ground that to avail of it you must operate your business in Ireland.
"I think it would attract international attention immediately,” he said.
Minister Ryan told the audience that we need to stimulate the economy.
"We are in the spend and lend business," he said. "Broadband is the crucial piece of infrastructure that Ireland will need to get out of the recession. The band-width we need will be more important than any other infrastructure such as roads and bridges. It is as fundamental a shift as the move from radio to TV. There is no choice. The customer wants this. We are going to need to be ahead of the curve, be one of the better countries. We have to acknowledge that we haven’t been that up until now- the unfortunate circumstances of private ownership of infrastructure companies held us back.”
Colm Long of Facebook gave a vivid description of the business potential of virtual items. Billions of dollars are being exchanged on virtual goods such as buying seeds in Farmville or buying guns in MafiaWorld (two online games), according to Long. He said that FaceBook is exploring opportunities that will allow people to move currency from one platform to another.
“This has the potential to be as big as our ads business over time, if we do it right,” he said.
John Herlihy of Google added that there are hundreds of millions of people out there who have time and have cash.
"Ultimately you have to help them convert one to the other. I would encourage all young entrepreneurs to take a look at that as I believe it is a profitable market space and there is a lot of opportunity there – Ubiquity first, revenue later.”
Another recurrent theme of the conference was that a new reality has dawned, even for companies who did not accept the interent.
“On the internet, there are no sacred cows," said Herlihy. "You are measured by the business that you do, whatever that business is - be it law, medicine or architecture. Anyone who thinks that they can lock themselves in a box and say I am not subject to rating, I suspect the digital world will be much tougher on you than anyone else.”
Damien Mulley commentated that the internet is like giving people democracy for the first time.
"Some companies don’t interact online whatsoever, but people are setting up fan pages or complaining about them online," he explained. "Even if that company does not put themselves online, their company is still online. Some control goes as a result. You have customers that feel empowered and feel like they are part-owners of your company, if you do it right, you can begin to be part of their community. It’s hugely powerful.”
Dylan Collins disagreed with Damien as the latter works on a majority basis. He said, “You can get a tyranny of the minority on the net. You can have what looks like a huge amount of noise on your page, it may look from a far that a lot of people hate your company, but it might just be five guys who are making a lot of noise”
Damien McLoughlin, UCD Smurfit School said, “The same basic rules of business still apply. Segmentation, the absolute core of marketing and hence the core of growth strategy for businesses, is still as important now as it ever was.”
For more information on the Growing Ireland series, visit www.ucd.ie/growingingireland.
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