The Telco: The Modern Day Animal Farm?

We know telecoms is a complex beast. As an icebreaker, I often start an industry event by asking the audience  “What animal do you think best represents the telecoms industry?”.  The range of answers over the years is many and varied as well as fascinating. It’s a great way to kick start a workshop but also brings out some of the inherent prejudices that the industry faces. In no particular order, here are some of the more interesting answers.

  • Dolphin:  highly intelligent, great at communicating (and for some very loveable)
  • Elephant: a bit slow moving but extremely intelligent (I can’t help thinking about the six blind men of Hindustan who when feeling different parts of the elephant all describe very different things!)
  • Peacock: self important, strutting around as if it owns the place, not particularly aware of things around it
  • Cow:  extremely functional, useful but lacking dynamism and intelligence – and everyone wants to milk them
  • Camel: bit ugly but lots of staying power, having outlived many other species
  • Eagle: sailing above the rest, good view from on high as to what is going on, picking off its prey at will
  • Shark: predatory, ruthless, other fish in the sea are scared of them
  • Pig: not especially interesting but extremely versatile. And, every bit can be consumed
  • Snail: slow moving and carrying around a lot of legacy that hinders swift movement

The theme can be extended to look at how other industries view telecoms: Picture fields separated by fences and different animals representing the different converging industries under Telecoms, Media &  Technology (TMT) in each field. All of the animals are looking over the fence saying “your grass is greener”.  This includes telecoms looking over at the IT, Media and other fields with envy. And, since many of the other industries are already more competitive, global and fleet of foot, they see the slow moving cumbersome and conservative telcos as easy pickings.

If all the fences came down, we would be left with the animals fighting for the pasture. The richer grass (areas with higher yields/margins) would disappear and a very barren field would remain. Lower margins for all concerned – sound familiar?

There is, of course, no answer to the question as to which animal wins. Having said that, beware –  in George Orwell’s Animal Farm, it is the pigs that come through and take control.

So, if you are involved in an industry discussion, please consider the theme and feed back any particularly interesting answers as to the animal characteristics of the telecoms industry.

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