We tend to think of the Internet in one of two ways: either as something new everyone else is doing and that we have to do to keep up, or as yet another media for communicating our sales messages. But to see the Internet in such narrow terms is to miss the point. Years ago, the Jesuit theologian and paleontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin described the "envelopes" of the universe: the Earth's core; its mantle; envelopes of water, flora and fauna, oxygen, and atmosphere; and, lastly, what he called the "noosphere," the envelope of human consciousness. He argued that the noosphere was porous and incomplete, but that one day it would become seamless, and humanity would be flawlessly connected in an envelope of consciousness. The Internet can be the instrument that will bring de Chardin's vision to fruition by wiring the souls of the world together. We are beginning to see this today:
Avant Go Inc. enables you to download personalized data from 350 different Web sites directly to your PDA or mobile computing device, information such as news, stock quotes, flight schedules, movie listings, restaurant reviews, maps, weather, and excerpts from headline news stories.
The company I used to run, a part of Manpower Inc., is about to be reinvented. Today temporary help can be purchased online through free-market auctions or exchanges. In my day, I moved gross-profit-margin percentages from the low 20s up to the 40s. Since I left the company nearly 20 years ago, competition has eroded those margins to the high teens and free-market auctions are about to eliminate them.
The major automakers have formed the online exchange Covisint [see Covisint Gets FTC Nod] that will link tens of thousands of suppliers from whom they will purchase $250 billion of supplies. Those suppliers will, in turn, purchase upward of $500 billion. These former adversaries are sweeping away the concept of competition as we have known it and are embracing a new, converging, and interactive world.
The price and demand for electricity in the Mid-Atlantic states, which can fluctuate wildly, used to be posted every 15 minutes. Now it is posted every three seconds on the Web.
Cisco Systems Inc. has embraced the Web and become one of the world's most valuable companies in less than two decades of existence. Larry R. Carter, Cisco's CFO, has achieved the incredible feat of closing the books at the end of every single working day, and Cisco has acquired 55 companies since its inception (25 companies have been acquired in the last 12 months alone). Technology will become the sinew of our soul, and new-story leaders will not shrink from the opportunities to work virtually, leverage the latest breakthroughs, and experiment in order to work and engage the soul at Web speed. We have at last been presented with the most powerful tool in human history -- the Internet. With Internet traffic doubling every 100 days, we will achieve what we have been dreaming about for so long -- the integration of our lives. Yet we need to understand and embrace the potential of the Internet to create a real Web for the first time in human history -- the Web of human consciousness. The Internet is the last piece of a human jigsaw puzzle in which we, at last, link the souls of humanity into one. The Internet is more than just an electronic brochure; it is a concept that is larger, by far, than the pedestrian and utilitarian limits we have placed on its potential. New-story leaders will reinvent their organizations within this context, not in response to it. They will see the Internet for what it really is -- an incredible way to inspire, lead, and touch people anywhere on the planet at any time, as well as the greatest opportunity to liberate the soul that we have seen in human history. Lance Secretan is an advisor to leaders, a public speaker, and a recipient of the 1999 International Caring Award, presented by the Caring Institute, Washington. Author of nine books, including Inspirational Leadership, Destiny, Calling and Cause (1999, CDG Books), Secretan can be reached at [email protected]