Ideas vs. Tools

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Ideas vs. Tools

“Don’t fondle the hammer”

I borrowed that from Jeremiah Owyang, of the Altimeter Group. He railed against the notion of a “Twitter Strategy” in his presentation at the SMASH Summit San Francisco this summer. His presentation is worth a look:

View more presentations from SMASH Summit.

Don’t get me wrong I enjoy “geeking out” on new technology as much as the next person but the real revolution is about IDEAS not tools. Here’s my version of IDEA vs. TOOL comparison, in each case the tool enables the idea but it’s the idea that is truly revolutionary. Let’s focus on today’s great ideas and give ourselves some creative space to think about tomorrow’s great ideas. The tools are nothing without the ideas.


Enabling tools are terrific but they are just tools. A hammer doesn’t make a beautiful home, any more than Twitter will make you successful online. My suggestion is that if people ask you, how you are using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Web to Print, MIS etc… Say what one of my favorite authors of all time said to me when I had the honor to meet him, “that’s not a well formed question” Mortimer Adler (one of the greatest philosophers ever). If I could recommend one of his many books, it would be “How to Speak How to Listen” – simply brilliant.

A better question would be what’s your strategy for building your online business? The tools of our offline business are familiar; direct sales force, yellow page ads, direct mail promotions, customer referrals, brochures, newsletters, etc… Your online business is different and requires a different strategy, not just because of the tools but because of the ideas. Communicating with your customers online is now a conversation vs. a broadcast message (yes, they can talk back and you’re expected to answer). Your customers want to procure your services on their own (self-service ecommerce). This is a radical transformation of ideas not tools.

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