‘Basics Still Govern’ Print E-mail
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Written by Peter Bigelow   
Monday, 01 February 2010 00:00

Time and technology passes, but the three drivers of change remain static.

It really wasn’t until a couple of weeks ago that it hit me: We are no longer in the first decade of the “new millennium.” Remember Y2K? Well, that was 10 years ago – eons in the world of electronic technology.

Scarier still is looking back at what the pundits were predicting on the eve of Y2K. Some saw gloom and doom for the modern world because of old analog clocks, unable to handle moving from “19” to “20,” therefore shutting down our modern utility-driven world. Others saw the fortunes of Wall Street moving ever onward and upward with another 250% gain for the decade. Some in our industry saw the size, profitability and clout of the North American printed circuit board industry leading the world, while other global areas continued to try to catch up. Let’s see: wrong, very wrong and sorta wrong. So much for pundits.

As much as some things have changed, the drivers of that change remain amazingly consistent with the drivers of all changes since anyone can remember or history has documented. No matter how tantalizing or technologically sophisticated the future appears to be, basics still govern. Over the years, when I have asked the “older and wiser’ among us – those who have helped us get to where we are today – the three drivers cited have been the same as those mentioned by young up-and-coming technologists, those leading us into the future. As I try to adjust to the second decade of the new millennium, I find myself considering how ageless and powerful these can be.

Curiosity is the driver that makes us ask questions. Without asking questions, such as how does this work, or what can I do to improve something, momentum never changes. In our industry, designers are perhaps the best example of those who always ask questions and consider the corresponding thoughts of “what if?” But curiosity is not limited to those who design product. Many a sale has been made by those curious about what other companies might need. Equally, in manufacturing no improvement can take place without someone asking how a process can be improved.

Ideas includes devising answers to the questions that curiosity causes. Initiating change comes not from accepting the status quo, but from developing ideas about what to do next. Again, designers do this all the time and seemingly effortlessly with tremendous results. Salespeople also come up with ideas that transform an unapproachable prospect into a loyal customer. Ideas transform the status quo into the “what if?”

Effort is the catalyst that enables curiosity to lead to an idea and that idea to be transformed into a result. Effort requires far less imagination or intelligence, but without it, nothing will result. Effort is the sweat it takes to work through the details and turn an idea into a satisfactory solution to the question initiated by curiosity.

Which brings me back to the pundits and their predictions. Despite those pesky analog clocks, the world did not end, because someone became curious and determined there was a problem. Then someone came up with ideas that might resolve the problem. We all took part in the effort to replace the disruptive clocks and controllers with digital versions, thus averting the Y2K gloom and doom.

Wall Street, on the other hand, was far less curious, had no idea, and therefore made no effort. By assuming something might happen and being comfortable with the status quo, just about every metric this past decade has been lost insofar as asset growth and wealth generation. Most investors have at best tread water, in large part because of complacency and an aversion to taking advantage of drivers that cause change.

Closer to home, our industry has experienced much change – some good, some not. Technology has marched forward because people remain curious, come up with great ideas and make the effort to convert ideas to cutting-edge product. Make no mistake, it is not software that enables technological advances, but rather the people who continually ask questions and challenge the norms – and then do something about it.

But for some, it has been a different story. Too many became complacent at the end of the 1990s. The curiosity to imagine what might be, and consider how best to make it happen, seemed to fade into the status quo. For others, many in far-flung parts of the world, curiosity was rampant. Ideas flowed like water. The effort was made to harness those ideas to satisfy the curiosity, and in 10 short years the epicenter of much of the technological world has shifted to places some thought unimaginable.

One of the many lessons of the past decade we all can apply to this new one is that if you become too complacent, the world will pass you by and in the worst way. Equally, if you stick to your knitting and be proactively curious, creatively developing new ideas and making the effort to take full advantage of that curiosity and thought, life can be good. The trick is making sure that everyone – from the top of the organization through all lower levels – doesn’t become complacent, but instead keeps thinking “what if?” That’s what good leadership inspires.

We in the technology world need to remember that every day offers us (and our competition) time for dynamic change to take place. Those who are getting ahead may be doing so by simply being curious, encouraging ideas and then making the effort – as daunting as it may seem at times. The challenge – and opportunity – is to remember to be curious, to have ideas, and to make the effort.

Peter Bigelow is president and CEO of IMI (imipcb.com); This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . His column appears monthly.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 09 February 2010 22:01


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