Why elephants can’t dance (or do social networking)

This morning’s Observer column.

Patience really is a virtue in this context, but it’s the one thing large corporations don’t seem to have. In part, this is a structural problem: public companies are driven by stockmarket expectations – which effectively means short-term exigencies. But corporate impatience to extract revenue juice from the online world in the short term is also a psychological problem. It’s the product of a mindset that has failed to take on board the scale of the changes now under way.

What’s happening is that one of Joseph Schumpeter’s waves of “creative destruction” is sweeping through our economies, laying waste to lots of established businesses and industries, and enabling the rise of hitherto unprecedented ones. And it’s doing so on a timescale of maybe 25 years, which means that the broad outlines of the new economic system won’t be clearly visible for at least a decade. But everywhere one looks, we find corporate moguls wanting answers Right Now. The most spectacular example is Rupert Murdoch, who is on his third demand for an immediate answer to the online question, but virtually every large organisation in the world is driven by the same panicky impatience…