The insanity of 5G

Insanity Is Doing the Same Thing Over and Over Again and Expecting Different Results

Albert Einstein (maybe)

Sometimes it takes a genius to point out the obvious. Right? If you want different results you have to try something different. You have to think differently. That’s something I guess we can all get behind.

It scarcely matters that Einstein never said any such thing. His name, and associated smarts, were just borrowed over to lend credence to a compelling idea that feels so right he SHOULD have said it.

But let’s put that to one side for a minute.

Let me tell you why working in telecoms drives you insane. Or at least why everyone in telecoms acts like they’re insane. Bear with me and you’ll see where I’m going with this.

I want you to imagine you’re three years old and your mother is pointing at you right now saying you’re not very well behaved and shouldn’t be crayoning on her walls. Or something like that. She’s really mad.

You’re now looking around seeing who you can blame. Because you’re three years old. Your bottom lip comes out. You pretend you can’t hear her and keep on colouring in your book. But your mother is having none of it: “did you or did you not crayon on my walls? Don’t lie to me and don’t pretend you didn’t do it!”

“It’s just a stupid wall.”

“It’s not a stupid wall. It’s my wall. Why did you do it?”

You look at your crayons. The wall. The cat. (The cat is looking at you saying ‘stop right there I don’t have thumbs’.) The person who left the crayons where you could grab them. Must be their fault, right?

You see your sister come in from school and point at her and say: “but she crayons on the wall too”. And your sister rolls her eyes and says: “when I was three”.

And your mother is pulling out her hair saying: “haven’t you learnt anything? We had this same talk last week, and the week before, and you’re still crayoning on my walls! Do you know how much it cost me to paint those walls? Do you think I have time to repaint them? Don’t you realise we have guests coming round and you’ve messed up the walls.”

And then you start bargaining to get off the hook. “Look it’s not a big deal. I can fix this. Why are you getting mad with me…crayoning happens you know…” And now it’s your mother’s turn to roll her eyes.

Working in telecoms makes you crazy. Somehow, at least at the organisational level, we behave like three year olds. We don’t communicate effectively. We blame our tools. When that doesn’t work we blame our customers’ irrational behaviour. We point at other industries and other companies in our market. They’re just as bad as us, we say.

Except it’s no good looking at any other industry – not financial services; not utilities; certainly not retail – and saying “they do it too”. All our customers care about right now is that we’re still crayoning on the walls. We’re still not taking responsibility for it. We’re blaming financial services for being as bad as us when they grew up 10 years ago. We’re not kids anymore. Our industry has been liberalised for decades and it’s time to grow up. We’re wasting our customers’ time, we’re wasting their money, we’re not being respectful of the things they are trying to do. And, worst of all, we’re not learning.

You’d have thought after 3G and 4G we’d have learnt:

  • not to build up expectations we can’t deliver against
  • to communicate more effectively with our customers
  • to support and reinforce technical innovation with experience innovation so that innovation feels tangible to the customer
  • to make it easier for customers to buy new products and services from us
  • to anticipate that customers can easily become confused at a time of rapid innovation and change.

You’d have thought that this time we’d have put customers at the heart of what we’re doing, not approach them as an inconvenient afterthought that we try to convince to fund our science project.

But then, as Einstein (or somebody else) said, repeating the same thing over and over and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity.

So we can only conclude that 5G is some form of mass-insanity and we’d better just hope our customers can figure it all out.

Or here’s a radical thought. We could prioritise the customer experience. Fix the gaps. And improve the way we communicate with our customers and engage them.

Effective communication is a huge commercial issue that impacts on digital service providers’ top and bottom lines – saving them money, accelerating time-to-revenue, and maximising sales. It also plays a vital role in building healthy, long-lasting customer relationships by reducing misunderstandings, setting expectations, and keeping digital service providers and customers aligned.

Teresa Cottam
Teresa Cottam

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