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TECH TALK: The Years That Were: History Lessons

October 4th, 2002 · No Comments

That was then, and this is now. If there is one thing which is clear thinking about the past few years, it is this the future is unpredictable. At the same time, we have to make bets on the future. Therein lies the challenge for us. As we look back over the past decade, there are many bets which went wrong the network computer and broadband are two examples. Many star performers of the past have stumbled or even vanished. And some companies like Microsoft and IBM just go on and on, bruised a little, but never vanquished.

Even the smartest among us make mistakes. The key is to adapt quickly. Vision and Strategy are important, but so is the discipline of Execution. In the last two-and-a-half-years, many dotcoms have learnt the real art of running businesses. The ones who have put their heads down and focused on the basics of working towards being profitable are the survivors. Amazon, written off as dead more than once before, has managed to carve out a nice slice of the eCommerce business. On the other hand, Yahoo, who could do no wrong, faces questions about its future, even as it faces competition from a fast rising Google. EDS could do no wrong till a few weeks ago, and look whats happened now.

Business today requires a very wide-angle lens. There are many developments happening in different areas which can be disruptive. We have to track multiple technologies and be aware of what is happening in various countries. Whats happening in wireless in Japan and Korea could happen tomorrow in our country and if it does, then what are the new challenges and opportunities that will be created. Wireless LANs could be disruptive to 3G and the hundreds of billions of dollars bet by many telecom companies. A couple years ago, few could have imagined that the wireless future would be anything but 3G.

Newspapers, magazines and research reports are great at post-facto analysis. They too get caught up in the hype of whats the latest hot technology and move on. They are not prognosticators of tomorrow. As much, while we need to read them, we have to do our own thinking of the world that is being created and the impact different technologies will have. We need to expose ourselves to a wide variety of views but, at the end of the day, need to build our own vision of the future. There is no substitute for reading, thinking, talking to people (customers, friends and others) who are at the frontlines and writing. Writing (especially blogging) helps clarify thought and encourages others to provide feedback, enriching the thought process.

Past success is no guarantee for future success, and conversely, past failure does not mean history will repeat itself. Even though change may seem very incremental as we are living through it one day at a time, change is constant and relentless. When we are in thick of things, everything seems to take longer than we can imagine! It is only when one steps back and takes a macro, multi-year view that we realise how much technology has changed our lives and impacted the way we go about our regular activities. If there is one thing which the past points to, it is that the velocity of change going ahead is going to be even faster.


The Years That Were T

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