Anomalies & Enigmas
The observation of Sherlock Holmes
It wouldn't seem that the game of poker had much relevance to the high speed, technical world of digital communication. Yet, surprisingly it can offer many useful mental models for helping to make sense of the rapidly evolving world of e-commerce.
As a one time professional poker player, I've always been consciously receptive to anomalies: the pattern that doesn't quite fit into the picture; the exception; the unusual; the behavior which is out of character. In poker, such observations are an important part of a poker player's game strategy, allowing a player to make intelligent guesses about the unknowable: namely, the value of an opponent's hidden cards.
Applying this tactic, of looking for anomalies, to e-commerce and the Web, it immediately becomes of interest that the very large corporations, the experienced advertising and marketing companies, the weight of big money and all the factors which are effective in the traditional world of commerce are not creating the many successes in the world of e-commerce that might be expected. Indeed, many of the combinations of big money, large corporations, experienced marketing services and mass media communication experts have produced spectacular failures.
How come most of the advances in e-business and e-commerce are being initiated by the young and not the experienced business managers and executives? How is it that large corporations can invest huge amounts of money to bring the best of corporate minds to bear on the problems yet be no more successful than many inexperienced start up companies rising up out of nowhere? Why should this be? These are anomalies worth investigating.
The great fictional master of the anomaly was Sherlock Holmes. He looked for anomalies and would seek explanation. His was a strategy of deduction and his breakthroughs always revolved around his much quoted observation "When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth".
In this book we are going to take just such an approach. The overwhelming evidence is that the conventional corporate mind is not up to the problem of mastering the world of e-commerce. They have had sufficient time to demonstrate that their know how can result in success. They haven't convincingly come up with the goods. So, applying Holmes's rule we must conclude the improbable: that the corporate mind formed in the twentieth century is inappropriate for dealing with the Internet in the twenty first.