--> Gill Blog: Are We Really Prepared for Change?

Gill Blog

Saturday, September 27, 2003

Are We Really Prepared for Change?

For some reason, I feel the need to continue with my thoughts about the theme of the 14th WCDM, i.e. "Are We Really Prepared?". I do this by sharing a few anecdotes demonstrating that when we are still at the dawn of any new era marked by changing technologies or organizational directives, the answer to such a question is obviously no. Let me demonstrate.

In the mid 80's a good friend named Al showed myself and a group of friends the neat new contraption he had recently acquired -- a CD player with 2 CDs. Although we all agreed it was pretty cool, I remember yours truly sounding off that this technology was nothing more than a stunt by the record companies to try and lure unsuspecting customers to repurchase the albums everyone had in LP format, as CDs. It was a week later that a national magazine I came across echoed my views, and I proudly showed the article to anyone that listened that I was a genius. The whole time, Al cooly acknowledged that I may have a point, but he would continue buying CDs, because he found them more convenient than LPs.

Fast forward - it's 1996, and I am in a meeting at work. My boss announces to the group that he has installed an email account in the office that can be centrally accessed in the boardroom. I politely asked when each of us would receive our own accounts that would be accessible at our own desks. He turned to me and asked what the possible benefit of doing that would be - he believed that the benefit of email was simply to be able to tell clients we were early adopters of a new technology. I said it might be helpful in the exchange of documents and files. I was told to switch the subject. As the meeting ended, my boss hauled me into his office, and behind closed doors told me I didn't know what I was talking about, and never to second guess his decisions in front of the group (until then, I thought our meetings were supposed to be an open forum). I meekly agreed. If I am not mistaken, he has since made the recommended change (as I now gingerly pry my tongue out of my cheek).

Perhaps the most glaring example of premature prognostication occurred in the release of Bill Gates 1995 book "The Road Ahead" (on the linked site, note the words "completely revised") when he largely brushed off the future viability of the internet and mentioned the new medium only 7 times over 300 pages.

Doesn't matter whether we're young interns, managers, or the world's richest man -- we simply don't have all the answers, and can therefore never assume that we're completely prepared. Business continuity planners, take note -- the landscape in which you are operating is changing daily; within no time it will bear little resemblance to the one you currently see in front of you.


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