Swimming with the Sharks
turbotodd 100000388Y Visits (1418)
First, there was the flight and hotel inquiry....I used Travelocity to search for and book the flight from Austin to Belize City (via Houston). It took me all of 10 minutes to investigate and lock in the flights. Then there was the hotel search. I already had a place in mind based on a friend's recommendation, but using the hotel Web site, was able to book and later confirm the room reservation and rate. I also used it as a connecting point to sites with pointers and information about the island. During my planning, I also needed to give the hotel a call to check in on a few details about the room reservation, and didn't want to spend a fortune doing so. So using Skype, I called the hotel with my ThinkPad and got the details I needed clarified, all for about .53 Euros.
While still landlocked, I Googled "Ambergris Caye diving" to learn more about the great dive sites in Belize, and unearthed more information than I could consume in one sitting. So in the spirit of on demand efficiency, I cut and pasted the info into a Word document, then synched it to my Palm Tungsten C using Documents-to-Go so that I could read more while traveling south on the plane.
Flash forward to the day before I am to leave: As mentioned, I had booked the flight to Belize City, and from Belize City to San Pedro, all online, the one via Travelocity and the other directly with the Belizian airline. Continental sends me an email the day before my flight leaves and asks if I want to go ahead and check in. Uh, yeah. So I book my seats and print the boarding passes before ever leaving home.
The next morning, I check in at the gate, check my bags and am on my way. It was the same day as the London bombings, so I was in a bit of a news blackout on the plane ride down. Fortunately, my hotel in San Pedro had wi-fi access on the premises and as soon as I landed was able to update my FeedDemon RSS reader and glance through the headlines to catch up on what had been going on (especially via many of the bloggers in London). I was also able to post a dispatch to my personal blog so that friends and family could find out what was going on with the trip thus far and to know that I had made it to Belize safe, and yes, even to quickly check my work email.
While on the island, I found several pieces of useful information from official and non-official Web sites about restaurants, background on the island and Belizian culture, dive operators, etc., all via Web sites. I was also able to call back to the U.S. using Skype to check in with family who were also traveling, and also to keep track of Hurricane Dennis, which we were concerned would blow our way.
After diving, there was plenty of time to sit around and sleep (or read), and being in a remote fishing village got me in the mood to read some Hemingway. I had started "The Sun Also Rises" many moons ago, but had never finished it and decided this would be a good time to get reacquainted. I figured finding a copy readily available on the island might be a stretch, and in any case knew that www.ereader.com was a URL away. In fact, it was "in stock" and I was able to purchase a digital copy to read on my Tungsten for $8.99. Problem solved.
My dive buddy and I were also able to produce a video of our underwater adventures in our hotel room and distribute it to friends and family before we ever even got back on the plane. This included shooting, editing, and distributing it in digital format. I also logged all my dives on a program on my Tungsten. And when my dive equipment was lost on the way home (it was inadvertently sent to Dallas instead of Austin), I was able to use the Continental Web site to track my bag as it made its way back to town. (And considering what I paid for that diving equipment, it was a most reassuring tracking tool to have access to!)
So you're probably saying, sure, so what, this isn't anything new. But rather than look at this story in individual piece parts, think about it more in the aggregate, because it is in the aggregate through which the power of on demand technology is revealed.
A personal vacation is not unlike a small business plan. It requires some strategic planning, some market research, some communication, some logistics and operations, and ultimately some execution. It the minimization of friction in all those transactions and the addition of non-commoditized, higher value interactions on top of each -- that distinguishes how pleasant (or profitable) one vacation (or small business) is from another. It is the very same kind of thing that distinguishes one on demand business from another.
Think about the vast span of information and systems to which I had access to across the span of this short journey: Access to the airline travel reservation system, the hotel Web site as virtual billboard and reservation desk, the eReader.com library and payment authorization engine, the optimization done for Google to make sure I could find the right site, the Continental luggage search online...each and every one of them were "friction busters." Every time each of those entities was able to streamline an information search or transaction on their end -- which ultimately saved them time and money by leveraging the unique capabilities of the Web to provide self-service for their customers -- the personal business plan (the vacation) was optimized on my end. I could probably even come up with a personal on demand equation. It would probably go something like this:
1 percentage point on demand intelligence / 1 percentage point of eliminated friction = 5 percentage points liberated free time for Todd.
Free time spent swimming with a shiver of really cool sharks. : )