No, I’m not talking about technology (or even innovation) in this post, which is what being an Early Adopter is usually intended.
I’m talking about figuring out how you lead when shit hits the fan, when top leadership in your organization has taken a vacation, when what seemed obvious now looks stupid, or when what the gurus predicted never materialized.
History is littered with dumb predictions that were at the time seen as prosaic. Let’s start off with some more recent ones, then move back in time. Here are some notable quotations from former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan:
“I guess I should warn you, if I turn out to be particularly clear, you’ve probably misunderstood what I’ve said.”
“It has been my experience that competency in mathematics, both in numerical manipulations and in understanding its conceptual foundations, enhances a person’s ability to handle the more ambiguous and qualitative relationships that dominate our day-to-day financial decision-making.”
“The true measure of a career is to be able to be content, even proud, that you succeeded through your own endeavors without leaving a trail of casualties in your wake.”
How about former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson during the financial meltdown?
“I misread the cause, and the scale, of the coming disaster. Notably absent from my presentation was any mention of problems in housing or mortgages.”
“I think the danger is to just look through that lens, to lose a sense of perspective and rush toward harsh regulations that are unnecessary. Some regulation will be necessary, some changes in accounting rules.”
Better yet, let’s reach back in time:
“No one will need more than 637 kb of memory for a personal computer. 640K ought to be enough for anybody.”
[Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, in 1981]
“There is no need for any individual to have a computer in their home.”
[Ken Olson, President of Digital Equipment Corp, in 1977]
“Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons.”
[Popular Mechanics, forecasting the relentless march of science, 1949]
“Well informed people know it is impossible to transmit the voice over wires and that were it possible to do so, the thing would be of no practical value.”
[The Boston Post in 1865]
You get my point.
These were (supposed) intelligent corporate leaders, or the media who thought they had the answers, and who expected their (self-perceived) followers to blindly follow them.
But YOU know otherwise.
You know that you’ve got the life experiences and that you have accumulated value-added knowledge to contribute to the organization.
Forget the hierarchical BS.
Companies and governments are so busy shedding employees that what do you have to lose by speaking truth to power?
Why not be an Early Adopter by rocking the boat, stirring things up by adding constructive ideas, and by being a positive force for change (read that as a being positive pain-in-the-ass).
So you get fired.
At least you went out with your head held high.
Gen Y, in my view, gets it when it comes to being mostly non-conformist.
Baby Boomers (of which I’m an honorable member)?
Forget it. We’re hopeless.
If Canada and the U.S. are to get their economies back on track to take on the new industrialized economies (South Korea, Brazil, Taiwan, Turkey, China, India–yes, it’s a very long list), then we need kick-ass talented young people in the years ahead.
Gen X (32-45) is overly consumed with taking over the reins of power from Baby Boomers and raising families. Gen Y’s where it’s at for radical change. Check out these contrasting questions to determine where you fit.
Are you… Or are you…
Passionate about your cause? OR Indifferent about your impact on the future?
Ready to lead and make sacrifices? OR Happy to be a follower?
Bursting with enthusiasm to get going? OR Subdued?
A constructive boat rocker? OR Into the status quo?
A stickler for getting it right? OR Let’s move on.
Take a moment to share your thoughts and experiences. JT
To be conscious that you are ignorant of the facts is a great step to knowledge.
– Benjamin Disraeli
Photo by J. Taggart (Chicago)
by Jim Taggart
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