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How dangerous is the slow lane?

I work for a large company, and although we try to move quickly and respond to the outside world, we know in our hearts that sometimes we move a bit too slowly for our own good—every big company does. But is the danger of big company (or small company) slowness much bigger than the bland “not keeping up”? Gord Hotchkiss thinks so. Is he right?

My favorite line from Gordon’s rant is that the chowderheads are running the company off the cliff because of their caution. He’s talking about search marketing, but it applies to many subjects—it’s one of the big themes of Do It Wrong Quickly.
Why do people do this? They’re not stupid (even though I like calling them chowderheads once in a while myself). No, they are just prisoners of their own success.
Like some kind of Darwinian business school, the last 100 years of success has mostly gone to the cautious. Oh sure, there have been a few Henry Fords thrown in here and there, but there have been a lot more General Motors types. Overwhelming resources used cautiously has been a winning formula. Success breeds imitation and before you know it, you’ve got a lot of careful, “just check it one more time” personalities in charge of the big companies (and plenty of the small ones, too).
But the Internet is turning that comfortable slow lane into a death trap.
We keep watching overwhelming resources (Microsoft, Barnes and Noble, or Blockbuster) get put on the defensive by the speedy innovators (Google, Amazon, or Netflix). What Gord knows (and many of you know too) is that going slow is suicide in a world where every minute you are not tweaking your approach you are losing out to someone who is willing to do that extra work. To paraphrase Damon Runyan, the race may not always be to the swift, but that’s how I prefer to bet.
That’s why I keep railing about how to do it wrong quickly. We have to dump the caution and be willing to try things that turn out to be wrong. We must be willing to act when we don’t have all the information. We must be willing to take our lumps and go right back out there again.
It’s a cliche to say that “not deciding is also a decision.” But it’s also true.
Get out of the “not deciding, not experimenting, playing it safe” slow lane. Your competition is passing you by.


Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in digital marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website,, most recently as the Manager of Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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