The February 2001 issue of Inc. highlights some of the results of the E-culture survey conducted by Rosabeth Moss Kanter's team at the Harvard Business School. The survey looked at the way the Internet is affecting businesses large and small.

For a quantitative understanding of where small businesses stand in their Web efforts, consult the statistics and conclusions in the story in Inc. magazine, "You Are Here." But statistics can't capture passion or frustration or hope.

What follows is a selection of comments from small- and emerging-company executives who, as part of the E-culture survey, answered open-ended questions about their Internet experiences. Listen carefully -- some of their voices may sound a lot like your own.

The passion:
"Internet use has improved relationships with our clients. They say things via e-mail and in working together on documents on the Internet that they never would have said to us in a more formal setting. We become friends over the Internet. We learn about them having to leave the office for a son's soccer game, or a home remodeling project. We are more a part of their lives in our e-mail exchanges. Some people say that e-mail is reducing communication between people, but we find just the opposite is true."

"The Internet is where everything will be moving."

"I believe that the Internet is the greatest equalizer of our age. Never has there been greater opportunity for so many for so little."

"I believe the true value of the Net will exceed even the radical predictions now taking hold in the media."

"We are counting on the fact that the Internet is changing business. We do expect to change the world."

"I believe that the Internet is the most positive thing that has ever happened in the technology field. This new technology will completely change the way we do business."

The frustration:
"My company is a dinosaur in a world that requires and rewards nimble, quick-flying birds."

"[ The Web is] way overrated, a mantra similar to a religion."

"I'm sick of the hype and business models -- like online grocers -- which are so obviously flawed."

"The Internet has the power to change a whole lot of things a little, but only a few things a whole lot."

"What we're seeing is a general reluctance to take the leap of faith necessary to move more products and services onto the Web."

"Our first Web site was directed at traditional retail customers, but we found that it alienated our wholesale customers, who saw it as infringing on their turf. And it wasn't the right medium for our product [ handmade tables and other home accessories] as our product is very tactile and variable."

"The company is still crawling out of mainframe hell and thinks e-mail is bleeding edge. It will be a long time before they overcome their fear of technology."

"I would love to be more Web focused, but where do I go? Whom do I trust?"

"Our organization is fragmented in terms of strategy and structure, and that has impacted our organization's experience with the Web. We are also a complicated structure and may be at a disadvantage versus competitors."

"Although I work for a technology company, we have not utilized technology even a fraction of its value. It's similar to being married to a doctor who is never around to treat the family illnesses."

The hope:
"The Internet breaks down the regionality of global creative content, allowing us to compete on a par with all others. Our way of bringing together multicultural creativity at a lower cost than the West will allow us to make full use of the sleepless Internet market."

"Eventually our industry [ construction] is going to see the light. It is those companies that work with the technology now that will be ahead in the future."

"The Internet has been a blast! We are very excited about its potential for growing our business and changing the way people purchase our product, which has been very locally based."

"In the past few years a lot of our international clients have sourced us over the Internet. Our future financial success will be because of the Internet."

"We believe that the present local market is limiting. The Internet will be a viable answer to the questions of how to increase market and sales."

"I would like to change every aspect of my business by leveraging the Web. Products change quickly, and organizations need to change just as fast. The Internet is flexible enough to allow change to happen quickly and efficiently."

Copyrigh © 2001 by Rosabeth Moss Kanter

Evolve!: Succeeding in the Digital Culture of Tomorrow by Rosabeth Moss Kanter is the book that grew out of the E-culture survey.

Published on: Jan 22, 2001