Thought Leaders, What happened to Net Neutrality?

What is the repeal of Net Neutrality?

Yesterday, the rules preventing internet service providers from blocking websites outright, slowing down streaming, and receiving payment for priority access were lifted.  This means internet providers can charge a premium to its customers to access Facebook, YouTube, or Netflix, for example; or internet providers might accept payment from Facebook, YouTube, or Netflix to grant their users priority access while smaller streaming services who can’t afford to pay suffer.

It’s bigger than people know

While net neutrality has certainly garnered attention, it’s surprising that it hasn’t garnered more attention – especially in the business community.  This isn’t a problem with a limited scope.  It directly impacts all businesses.  Business today is done via the internet, from pre-sales, to networking, to sales.  Your product, no matter the industry, is at risk of being controlled and ransomed.  And yet, net neutrality wasn’t and isn’t the cornerstone of seminars, networking events, blogs, and articles.

The most important idea to share

No matter where you turn, there is a blog, a video blog, or someone on social media micro-blogging about their industry.  This is Thought Leadership and it’s everywhere.  Its sole purpose is to build engagement, trust, and collaboration.  This is exactly what cannot be done when your message is deleted, obstructed, or sold to the highest bidder.  As Thought Leaders, we have the most at stake in remaining silent and not sounding the alarm:  our reputations.

Reputation is everything

In the past year, Reputation has become the hot topic.  There’s simply too much information moving too quickly for us to process everything.  Increasingly, we rely on others to digest, interpret, and supply us relevant information.  Someone or something with a great reputation is one we trust and its influence is real.  Amazon is trusted almost as much as a bank – home of your money.  The result is 53.4% of people will buy an unknown brand on Amazon and 49.6% don’t bother to comparison shop.  It’s why the Cambridge Analytica scandal of Facebook is such a big deal.  Before we trusted our friends and, by extension, what was in our News feed, but now that trust and the decision to trust has been called into question.

What happened, Thought Leaders?

Similarly, silence on the topic of net neutrality by Thought Leaders should create some doubt.  How can the values of engagement, trust, and collaboration be under attack and yet so many remain silent?  Or is this really just about the appearance of trust, so a business, like Amazon, can avoid comparison shoppers?


If we had to rate ourselves, we must admit that we did quite poorly when it comes to sounding the alarm of net neutrality.  It’s something that’s weighed on us.  The majority of Sherwood Chamberlain’s clients are in the Legal industry and a large percentage of them are Business Law Firms.  We are trusted advisers to trusted advisers.  We should have been in the forefront of promoting, warning, and provoking action.  We must do better.

Less talk, more action

Right now, Congress is considering re-instating the net neutrality rules.  It has already passed in the Senate, but it needs your help to pass the House.  Find out who your US House of Representative is and reach out.  Your business, message, and values should not be held hostage.

Dinner and a show versus all-you-can-eat

In the old days, technology was about buying more.  More hard drive space, more speed, more features.  These were things you needed and could leverage for a competitive advantage.  This is the equivalent of an all-you-can-eat buffet.  The food isn’t of the highest quality, but you can have whatever and however much you want.

Today, technology is about crafting a better experience.  Everyone has unlimited hard drive space, speed, and features just a click away on the cloud or in an app.  Your competitive advantage comes when you improve an event or a service that didn’t use technology before.  This is the equivalent of dinner and a show.  The food is no longer the sole focus and the overall experience is improved.

To take a real life example, consider this writer’s most recent experience at a legal conference.  The conference was the same format as all others for the past 40 years, except in one way: this time they built an app to facilitate human interactions.  The app let you build a profile, post updates, rate events, and navigate the conference. In short, it built a temporary Facebook.  It created a truly immersive experience, where the conference became a talking point for building new and real connections.

As a bonus, I’m sure that conference was able to collect a lot of data on their most devout attendees.  They likely recorded foot traffic, attention (how often was a person on their phone during an event), event ratings, which posts created the most buzz, and how far the attendee traveled, just to name a few items.  They’ll take this data to build an even better, more engaging event next year.

Improving experiences, building stronger relationships, is where technology now has the greatest opportunity for competitive advantage.  Data Analytics will only continue to grow in the coming years.  Those who elect not to participate in designing a better experience for their clients will find it increasingly difficult to compete.

Retrieve information faster with chatbots

Chatbots are best known as a marketing tool. You’re familiar with them as the pop-up chat windows on websites and the way businesses provide 24/7 response on Social Media.  More recently, they’ve become great for internal workflows.  You can setup bots to schedule meetings, pull quotes, quotas, or inventory.  In the featured image of this post, I’ve setup a personal bot to save information and retrieve it easily using Hangouts Chat for G Suite, but you can do similarly with #Slack or across teams.

Ditch typing, focus on your message

You probably don’t type as fast as you talk. Lucky you. The world we live in doesn’t require you to learn how to type. It’s one less act of rote memorization, one less barrier between you and what matters: your message.

There are times when typing is better than talking, of course. For instance, in a really noisy space or a quiet one. That being said, I did write this article while walking next to a busy street and, later, while I was in the office with the only other sound being the keyboard next to me. When I ask my business partner if my ramblings bothered him, he replied, “Huh?”

There are times when talking is better, too. For instance, when you’re on the go or you want to free your hands. Walking while you craft emails or blogs can be huge for your health. When you’re trying to lay out instructions for someone, you can do the actions yourself while you narrate the instructions.

For me, the best part about talking over typing has been that it forces me to think through my words carefully before committing them to “paper.”  When I’m not clear on exactly what I want to say, I get instant feedback: dead air, run-on sentences, slurred words. It’s hugely embarrassing, but it helps me to hone my message.

The next time you tell yourself you’ll go to the gym right after you finish this one email, pull out your phone or tablet, leave your desk, and talk it out. Welcome to the future!


Vague goals don’t protect you

Your goal must be clear if you want the right help. You can be ‘healthy’ with the help of a nutritionist, Yogi, psychologist, or surgeon. More often than not, when I meet a potential client for the first time, their goal is vague – “more security” or “I just want it to work” – and they would like a quote for the solution.

I get it. For most people, sales is an opportunity to upsell or justify a markup. As a technology partner, the sales process is the core of the product. We are judged by our ability to clarify the goal and develop a custom solution. If you’re sitting in a meeting looking for a technology partner, this is the product demo.

Youmust be willing to try the product (share information, get into an argument). Otherwise, you’ll find yourself on the operating room table when what you wanted was the couch.

Are you fixing ‘the’ problem?

When you’re short and can’t reach the top shelf, disorganized items that slide off at the slightest touch is a feature. Orderly, straight rows would never budge. The shelf becomes useless. The user’s experience is much more important than what we perceive to be right. As technologists, it’s our responsibility to design the solutions that fit our clients, not some preconceived notion of what is best.