A History of Denial

In 1759, Benjamin Franklin discovered that lightning is electrical. It was a signal for change to all candle makers.

In 1769, Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot of France gave us the first actual automobile. He constructed a steam-powered tricycle. It ran for 20 minutes carrying four people at 2.25 miles per hour. It was the first signal of change to horse and buggy owners.  

In 1806, Humphrey Davy introduced an electric arc lamp to the Royal Society in Britain. This invention created light via an electrical spark generated between two rods made of charcoal. Many did not see any practical use of this invention. It was a warning sign for candle makers.

In 1863, the world’s first underground railway opened between Paddington and Farringdon. Thirty-eight thousand passengers traveled on the opening day when steam locomotives hauled gas-lit wooden carriages. It was another signal of change to horse and buggy owners. 

In 1865, an article in the Boston Newspaper scoffed at radio transmissions, stating, “Well informed people know that it is impossible to transmit human voice over wires.”

In 1868, the first typewriter was patented by Americans Christopher Latham Sholes, Frank Haven Hall, Carlos Glidden, and Samuel W. Soule in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In 1886, the Smith-Premier Typewriter Company was created. It went on to become the best typewriter company in the world. By 2013, Smith Corona was no longer supporting typewriters as personal computers had changed the market forever.

In 1896, Colgate and Co. sold Ribbon Dental Cream, the first toothpaste in a tube. By 1899, Charles H. Duell, Director of the United States Patent Office, declared that “…everything that can be invented has been invented.

In 1903, the Wright brothers moved from constructing bicycles to conquering the sky with the first man-powered aircraft. As they flew at the speed of just under seven miles an hour, some appealed to ban the flight to avoid frightening the horses.

Until the 1920s, less than 5% of the population could afford to buy what was needed. Edward Bernay made crude cinema commercials using Eleanor Roosevelt to convince women to have more than one pair of shoes.

On November 2, 1920, Station KDKA made the USA’s first commercial broadcast. People heard the results of the Harding-Cox presidential race before they read about it in the newspaper. It was a signal of change to newspaper companies. 

In 1927, at the age of 21, Philo Fransworth demonstrated a vacuum tube electronic television in San Francisco. He had lived in a house without electricity until he was fourteen years old. A year later, while working in the fields and among rows of vegetables, he was inspired by the idea that a picture could be dissected into a series of lines of electricity transmitted so that the eye would see a moving picture.

A co-founder of Warner Brothers, Harry Warner, said, “Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?” By 1931, silent movies were replaced by “talkies.”

In 1939, the New York Times wrote, “The problem with television is that people must sit and keep their eyes glued on a screen… it will never be a serious competitor to radio.” Two years later, Bulova clocks were the first TV commercial that reached 4,000 television sets.

By 1952, television ad revenue surpassed magazine and radio ad sales. It was a clear signal of change to radio stations. 

In 1959, Xerox had created the first commercially viable copy machine. The tag line from Xerox: “They will help you manage information.”

In 1966,Times magazine predicted that “Online shopping, while entirely feasible, will flop.” The 2020 pandemic proved that they were wrong as online shopping became the only means of procuring goods.

In 1969, humankind conquered space when Apollo 11 landed on the moon. In the same year, Arpanet, a precursor to the internet, was developed by the US government for the military. It was not yet available to the general public.

As chief scientist, Xerox management allowed Jack Goldman to create Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) in 1970. By 1971, PARC used the first email. In the next five years, PARC researchers invented:

  • The 1972 Xerox Alto was the world’s first internet personal computer
  • Mouse and graphic user interface
  • Desktop publishing
  • Laser printing
  • Ethernet
  • Made incredible advancements in internet networking

In 1974 Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (formerly XEROX PARC) ran an advertisement on Alto TV. The commercial showed an executive grabbing a cup of coffee and walking into his office. He sits in front of a computer as the commercial continues:

a Xerox machine (computer) grabbed your morning mail on a screen”… “push a button and the words and images you see on screen appear on paper”… “push another button and the information is sent electronically to similar unit around the corner or around the world. This is an experimental office system. It’s in use now at the Xerox Research System at Palo Alto, California. Soon Xerox System like this will help you manage your most precious resource – information.

The commercial ends with the executive using voice-enabled technology to get information from the computer. His wedding anniversary is coming up. The computer reminds him that flowers need to be purchased. The executive admits that he forgot, and the computer screen responds:

It’s okay. We’re only human. Xerox.”

At Xerox Center in Palo Alto, 200 of the best minds were isolated and distanced from the company’s Chairman. Other co-workers thought that the long-term vision of these high achievers was impractical. Some viewed them as arrogant. In 1973, Xerox owned the best photocopier in the world, the Xerox 914. They were so busy with their success that they did not even get many of their inventions patented.

Xerox could have been the leader of the entire computer industry. What went wrong?

Steve Jobs visited Xerox Center in 1979 and was mesmerized when he saw a cursor move on the screen with the aid of a mouse. Steve was not a designer. He was not an engineer but knew how to make it happen. He hired several Xerox employees and ran with it. Steve described his visit:

“I had three or four people who kept bugging me that I ought to get my rear over to Xerox PARC and see what they were doing. And so I finally did. I went over there.  And they  were  very  kind  and  they showed me what they  were  working  on.  And they showed me really three things, but I was so blinded by the first one that I didn’t even really see the other two. One of the things they showed me was object-oriented programming. They showed me that, but I didn’t even see that. The other one they showed me was really a network computer system. They had over a hundred Alto computers, all networked using email, et cetera, et cetera. I didn’t even see that… I was so blinded by the first thing they showed me, which was the graphical user interface. I thought it was the first best thing I’d ever seen in my life.”

In 1975, Paul Allen and Bill Gates founded Microsoft. Bill Gates was given a tour of PARC. Microsoft hired Xerox employees. When Steve Jobs accused Bill Gates of copying the Macintosh, Bill responded:

Well, Steve, I think there’s more than one way of looking at it. I think it’s more like we both had this rich neighbor named Xerox and I broke into his house to steal the TV set and found out that you had already stolen it.”

Since then, tremendous progress has been made in the field of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and voice-enabled technology.

In 1981, Sage was founded by David Goldman, Paul Muller, and Graham Wylie. Then came Act CRM (1986), Goldmine CRM (1989), Sage Saleslogix (1997), and Sage CRM (1998). In 1999, Salesforce was founded by Marc Benioff, Parker Harris, Dave Moellenhoff, and Frank Dominguez. Cloud-based CRM was now well on its way.

On August 6, 1991, the World Wide Web entered the scene. Most people around the world didn’t know what the internet was.

In 1992, the internet took off with online services like America Online and Prodigy. Two years later, display advertising started when AT&T used the first banner ad.

In 1995, Yahoo became a web directory for commercial businesses and created the first keyword-based advertising.

While all this progress was being made, Robert Metcalfe, in 1995, the inventor of Ethernet, declared:

“Internet will soon go spectacularly supernova and in 1996 catastrophically collapse.”

What collapsed by 1996 was the market for typewriters.  Smith Corona, the leader in typewriting business, went bankrupt.

By 2000, we began to see the rise of YouTube. Blockbuster in the same year turned down the opportunity to buy Netflix for 50 million (USD). By 2020, Netflix was worth 194 billion (USD).

In 2006, the word “pizzled” entered our dictionary. Pizzled described how one felt when talking with someone, and their Blackberry phone rang, and they answered it. What was hurtful then has become the norm today.

By 2008, we became an urban world. More people were living in metropolitan cities, and more people began to worship Jesus in Spanish than in English.

By 2009, we had seen the best in the industry make errors in judgment. Three times Blockbuster had an opportunity to buy Netflix. They declined it. Bill Gates wanted to place Britannica on a CD-Rom. Britannica continued to like their leather bound books until they went out of business.

Ironically, Microsoft’s Encarta had a great run from 1993 to 2009. The collection was available on CD-Rom or DVD. Yet even the mighty Bill Gates did not want to put Encarta online. What happened to leather-bound Britannica books happened to Microsoft’s Encarta.

For Canadians, it was sad to watch Research in Motion (RIM), the Canadian-based maker of the Blackberry, falling behind. By 2012-2013, Thorstein Heins, the new CEO, admitted that they had ignored the move in the United States to fourth-generation (4G) wireless networks and had stuck to their tiny keyboard:

“If you have a great touch interface, people are actually willing to sacrifice battery life. We thought that wouldn’t happen.”

The Revolutionary BlackBerry was clueless about what customers wanted. Just five years after BlackBerry dominated the American market, they lost 75 percent of their market value. Blackberry underestimated the power of the iPhone’s touchscreen.

In 1952 the first computer was able to recognize speech. Bell Laboratories developed and nicknamed it Audrey. Limited in voice-enabled technology, it could only interpret single-digit numbers spoken by individuals. It took another 60 years for things to unfold further.

In 2005, Facebook replaced MySpace. In 2007, Twitter was introduced, and the Apple iPhone replaced flip phones.

In 2011, Siri became the new search tool on iPhones, and Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) became real, as IBM’s Watson and Salesforce’s Einstein were developed as CRM tools.

By 2012, Google released Google Now for their Android system.

In 2013 and 2014, Microsoft and Amazon followed suit, and then came Cortana. Voice recognition technology moved far beyond the smartphone.

In 2014, voice-enabled Alexa A.I. was available in stores.

In 2015, Klaus Schwab introduced the concept of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. His book, “The Fourth Industrial Revolution,” was released in 2016. It describes a new era that brought together digital, physical, and biological systems. He predicted disruption due to robotics, artificial intelligence (A.I.), nanotechnology, quantum computing, biotechnology, the Internet of Things (IoT), the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), first-generation wireless technologies (5G), 3D printing, and autonomous vehicles.           

Church and Charity leaders are still underestimating the change from voice-enabled technology powered by 5G, persuasive technology, and A.I. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) on Google searches allows a visitor to see a list of many churches. Voice-enabled technology is about to disrupt this. Platforms like Siri and Alexa offer the name of only one church as part of a voice search. What are the chances your church will be the one that Alexa offers to visitors in your community?

Pablo Picasso, Spanish painter, sculptor, and printmaker, ironically stated,

“What use are computers, all they can do is give you answers?”

Likewise, many church leaders are in denial. Most church leaders are comfortable with their outdated system of records (CRM). The best leaders are still not dedicating enough attention to their church branding. There is an Innovation Gap.

Church leaders need to heed the warning of companies who have risen and fallen at their demise. Church leaders need to be good stewards of the ministry entrusted with, by ensuring that their church stays relevant. Innovation and optimization are no longer a choice. It is a necessity and one that is easily affordable for any size of the church.

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