As you may know there are reputedly four stages to learning: Unconsciously Incompetent (I’d be good at driving a car!), Consciously Incompetent (That first lesson was very embarrassing), Consciously Competent (I’ve just passed my test), and Unconsciously Competent (I can’t remember anything about my drive home).

The stage that I am most interested is the first one – where you don’t know what you don’t know. I was with a client last week and they mentioned how a CRM Consultancy had charged them £800 to come in for a day and ask them what they wanted from a new CRM system.

No surprises that because they didn’t know what they didn’t know the day ended with “So you want somewhere to store all of your contacts and accounts” £800 wasted and one step closer to a very expensive rolodex.

Had the consultant been able to help the customer understand what they didn’t know (by uncovering the details of their business processes and understanding how these might be improved) then the client would have moved to knowing what they don’t know and been able to provide much better information (“we need to save costs on re-keying data into multiple systems, we need to be able to track which marketing campaigns end up being most profitable, we need to understand why certain sales people get up to speed quicker than others etc.”)

The reason I mention this story is that I had my own Unconsciously Incompetent moment last weekend with the iPad. I use one for business as it is light to carry around and, because I run cloud apps, I can access my email and documents, CRM system, support tickets, view my cashflow and even chase debtors whilst with customers or at home. Great as this is, it is still just using the iPad as a mobile web browser.

At the end of last week though a new App was released called Flipboard. Flipboard takes a wide range of your social media news streams Facebook, Twitter, Tech Crunch, etc and turns them into a social magazine written just for you. Using the touch screen you ‘flip’ through your personalised magazine featuring your friends, family and business colleagues.

If you use Twitter Lists (a subsection of people you follow) then you can have a separate page for these – so if you are a business owner and you follow a range of Business Newspapers and Networking Groups on Twitter, then this becomes it’s own magazine.

My Consciously Incompetent moment, was in seeing a whole new world opened up by the touch screen. A simple ‘flip’ of a page helped me realised that most Cloud Applications today are built for a point and click mouse – even on an iPad you point and tap. But as developers start to understand how we could interact better by stretching, pinching, twisting, and multi-tapping – the possibilities for the way applications are developed in the future are immense.

Why is this important to Small Businesses?

In the past application development was left to big Enterprise – it was expensive, time-consuming and you needed to be technical. Now Small and Medium sized businesses are able to use Cloud Computing to quickly develop low cost applications for their clients. If business owners spend time thinking about their customers, and how they interact with their business, and start to imagine how touch might improve and differentiate.

Perhaps:

  • a Physio asking a patient to draw on a body outline where they feel pain
  • an Accoutant being able to reconcile accounts by dragging transactions around the screen
  • a Plant Hire company being able to send machinery from one client site to another by dragging it on a Google Map
  • a house hunter being able to draw a circle around the region they are interested in on the Estate Agent’s site
  • a Web Designer allowing his clients to drag and resize sections of their new website

There is no limit to what could be developed, and it could be the biggest opportunity for Small Businesses to really differentiate against bigger competitors.

I now know what I don’t know. I know that the ideas will have to come from you the business owner. You know how you interact with your clients. Your imagination can start to drive this innovation.

Do you have an iPad? Do you use it for business? How do you think the concept of touch might improve the way your business interacts with your clients?