Some context to this post, because it really isn’t just about memory (that’s the back story). It is really setting the scene for what I think will be a series of posts that I will link to from here that is exploring whether Geoffrey Moore’s chasm thinking can be applied to a country. Still not sure it can - but we will see as the journey unfolds.

In a different life I spent a year as a trainee Chartered Accountant and in the first course I attended I learnt the rudiments of double entry book keeping. You know the drill… debit on the left, credit on the right … Except I was taught that ‘debit is on the side nearest the window’. At the time it made perfect sense, except of course it didn’t if I moved to a room where the window was on my right!

‘Don’t worry’ said the instructor, ‘I’ve got your back. When thinking of debits and credits, you will always think of this room.’ And you know what? He was right.

Much as older people might remember where they were when Kennedy was shot, or when those astronauts landed on the moon and younger ones recalling where they were when the Twin Towers in NYC were attacked, I - and I suspect others in my basic accounting class - will always remember that room.

Another room that has stuck in my memory is when I first met Geoffrey Moore. It was at the end of 1991/beginning of 1992 … in a funny little meeting room in Redwood City in Northern California. Despite moving in to the first of ‘the towers’ in 1989, a lot of the company was ‘elsewhere’ at the time - and a bunch of marketing wonks hanging with Geoffrey - well clearly that wasn’t important enough to be in the ‘shiny tower’.

Geoffrey was talking about his new book ‘Crossing The Chasm’ and it’s applicability to Oracle - at the time, there was strong argument that Oracle was well over the chasm … but that didn’t mean some of the products in the portfolio were.

It’s funny how memory works. I can still see that dark miserable room in my mind’s eye. I can only remember a couple of other people attending the session - but at least that is a couple of people more than I remember in my accounting class!

By the way this podcast from Malcolm Gladwell is a great listen around this very topic. Highly recommend.

Anyway, ’Chasm’ is a book that rapidly became the ‘bible’ for software marketeers. You might not have read the first edition, but maybe the second? The third? That last revision was in 2014 and by then, though the subject matter was still firmly grounded in software, it has become one of those classic marketing texts that has crossed the boundaries into other markets.

So why am I writing about this thirty years later?

Easy … I have been talking to a lot of people and companies down here in New Zealand ( a lot ) and have come to the conclusion that the country of New Zealand is pre chasm. (To be clear, being ‘pre-chasm’ is not a bad thing, what’s bad is that if you are and don’t recognize it.)

But even before I get to that dicussion, I was wondering if anybody had thought this way. (Applying ‘chasm thinking’ to a country that is.)

So I checked in with Geoff and asked …

Are you aware of anybody that has taken your Chasm work and applied it to an entire country? I know it’s a leading question - but the more I think about it, the more I wonder if your work could be applied to a country and not just to a company and if it could - has anyone done it?

And almost by return, he wrote a long email which contained this nugget …

“Technologies, products, platforms — why not countries? The whole point of the model is how social systems negotiate disruptive innovations. The question is, whether New Zealand a disruptive innovation, or are we talking about New Zealand as a social system that will process a disruptive innovation? If the latter, then what is the disruptive innovation to be processed? Once we answer those questions, we can proceed.”

💬 Geoffrey Moore

I haven’t yet answered the question - that is kind of what the series of posts is about, but my starting position is to think of ‘New Zealand as a social system that will process a disruptive innovation’.

Back to my drafts.