Prairie Trail Logo

Views from the Prairie

December 09

Possible Technology Cusp 350

Every time a new computer technology comes into being, it starts by being used by specialists, then by people playing games, and then serious applications start to show up. Each time, the new technology was derided as a "toy" by those who were working with the previous technology. For example, the operating system Unix was started as a way to play a game. Over time, each new technology reaches a "cusp" where it changes from being a fun technology into something that most people will use.

We are approaching that point with smart cell phone technology. Cell phone technology has been used for specialized uses such as POS terminals, but cell phones have not had a standardized operating system nor were they easy for other people to put their own applications on.

That is changing with both the Apple iPhone and the new Droid phone. Both use standard operating systems and languages. Apple has greatly benefited from all the people putting their own applications on the iPhone. What has kept the iPhone from being used as a general purpose device has been the lack of input. There are now rumors that Apple is changing that (specifically, there is a rumor that Apple is putting a card reader on it to run credit card transactions). The Droid has both USB and Bluetooth that while officially they don't support input, there are lots of people hacking that device to provide full keyboards and interfaces to many other devices.

Where this is going is that we will soon have a fairly low cost device that can be used in retail and industrial applications. Certainly, mobile data collection is going to be made a lot easier. Since there are lots of people programming these devices, the cost of trying a new idea is going to be a lot lower than with the current equipment.

This won't affect the banks nor the terminal manufacturers who sell mostly to banks. Instead, it will be an opportunity for many entrepreneurs to jump into the services market with new ideas based on a low total cost of entry.

How to destroy a company

The recent book, How the Mighty Fail, points out that the starting point for the destruction of a great company is not usually something from the outside, but a change in attitude. The starting point is something that the author calls, "Hubris".

Attitude is the key to a company's future. We are told to hire for attitude. We do well to fire for attitude. But the key attitude that we would do well to fire for is one that very few companies actually check for. The attitude that we can't fail is the one attitude that destroys more companies than any other.

When someone has the attitude that they can't fail, then they miss the signs that they are making mistakes. Similarly, bosses that can't fail do not see when their employees are cutting the wrong corners to make the numbers come out correct. Take Enron for example. Up to his death, Ken Lay (former chairman of Enron) stated that he had done nothing wrong and stated that he had acted with total integrity. He didn't think that he could fail and thus, totally missed what brought down the company.

Won't or Can't?

Many a boss likes to hear that the employee won't fail. The attitude that the employee will do all in their power to succeed is music to a boss' ears. However, there is a subtle difference between "I will do all I can to not fail" and "I can't fail." That difference is key to knowing when the attitude will be good for the company or fatal.


This newsletter is posted here as well as sent via mail and email. If you wish to receive updates, please sign up above.

Prior Years

  1. 2008