Design Thinking and Telecom

Blog, Disruption, Les Routledge

Telecom and CATV companies really could use a dose of this “design thinking” applied to them.


Their posture in response to technology and consumer trends demanding more choice and selection and less top-down corralling of their habits is not very useful today. Indeed, their response reminds me of the people who were building sand bags along our flooded rivers this year in a futile effort to hold back a huge force. In Minot for example, their efforts were futile and eventually the entire community was under 6 to 12 feet of water.

Perhaps a better analogy is the situation of Devil’s Lake that has been filling up with water over the last 15 years. The process of flooding is not sudden, but it is futile to attempt to stop it. Instead, the solution is to move your house before it is inundated.

The telecom companies need to realize the future that is coming at them and that future does not include them building walled gardens, because the pressure of technology and consumer demand will overwhelm any artificial barrier.

The example last week of Rogers electing to only distribute Blue Jay games on their own cel network and only to Roger’s customers is an example of one of those wall. Given the presence of international hacker communities, how long do you think it will take for some group to figure out how to tap into that feed and make it available for free? While I do not condone that type of signal theft, it is a logical and entirely expected outcome that will result from Roger’s actions.

The alternative model is for telecom companies to embrace an open, eco-system model of competition and commerce. Instead of forcing customers to use second rate applications or services, they throw open their platforms to all parties to come up with the best possible customer offering. Following that path may not maximize revenues or internal bureaucratic empires, but it could maximize profits.

It is interesting that Telus appears to be moving down this path. While they could have joined the crowd and attempted to gain control of exclusive content, they have opted instead to position themselves as a champion of customer choice. Time will tell if their strategic positioning works, but it is aligned with the direction that both technology and consumer trend lines are leading.

The question that I have is will minor players like SaskTel and MTS realize that they too do not have the financial strength to play the content aggregation game and figure out that their best long term strategy is to compete with the majors by capitalizing on the technology and consumer trends?

The other mega question is will the public policy / regulatory system get aligned with the technology and consumer trends and foster dynamic competition instead of the false mirage that we have in place today?

As a libertarian leaning person, I welcome day that I am not controlled by either governments or distance corporate oligopolies.