WHAT CURVE?: I Like it Just the Way it is Now.
By David A. Goldsmith & Lorrie Goldsmith
Monday, 23rd January 2006
Staying ahead of the curve is one dilemma that executives have always tried to achieve and yet many do not. 

Many actually spend their days putting out one fire or another only because they were blind to the signs all around them offering clues to the next wave.  Clues are found everywhere.  However, they require much thought to pick out the winners from the trails that lead no where.  After the plummet of the dot.coms and the virtual elimination of individuals' retirement monies from investments in the market from 1999-2002, it's not hard to believe that such "crystal balls" don't exist.

You're mistaken.  The boom economy during the 90's was driven by a desire for technology that would feed the new style of business management that thrived on hits and clicks, not sales.  To say it was a confusing time is an understatement.  The concept that you can grow to 1000 employees and never make a dime, or even worse, lose money every day, puzzled many in the world of business.  In the end, staying ahead of that curve meant taking your fortunes and accepting that the boom was over and that there may be many ways to conduct business.

On the flip side, those who have lost their jobs, homes, cars and fortunes are also still looking for new ways to play in the economy and are returning to education as a means to reskill themselves.  One organization that has taken advantage of broadband technology, chat rooms, and email is the University of Phoenix.  It has been growing at up to 80% per year.  Don't just look at this as another educational institution; that's not what we want you to see.  Look at it as an example of someone who was ahead of the curve and had the knowledge and courage to follow through.  It is an entity that made decisions that placed the firm in the right place at the right time, and it has forced its competition into the catch up mode. They saw the future even during the 1990's.  The University of Phoenix made the strategic move to invest in an online structure, not e-learning the way "technos" envisioned it.  They also came to the conclusion that there would be online AND classroom-style learning in the future, not the elimination of one by the other.

The school was founded in 1976 and by 1989 was given the accreditation to offer internet-based courses as a qualifies university.  So far, 45,200 students have received certification while other universities spent millions just trying to get their programs off the ground.  One university in the NY metro area spent almost $20 million before they closed down their department to stay on the proven path. Today the University of Phoenix Online is hiring 5000 faculty (5600 currently) and 800 employees just to orchestrate its future.

This could be you and your firm.  Part of what it takes is awareness...the awareness that breeds innovation and thought.  The awareness that puts action and the imagination to work.  Remember the corporate "lifer" who dedicated an entire career to one company and got the golden watch at the end.  The golden watch is gone and the corporate world is not the same puppy it was 30 years ago.  You need to stay ahead of the curve to survive.

So where do you turn?  We're going to offer you a simple approach that if followed, will reinstill dreams.  Learn from those who practice viewing the future.  Right or wrong in predictions?  You be the judge. However, there is something to learn from all of them.

  • Alvin Tofler - for decades Alvin Toffler has made predictions about almost everything.  He wrote The Third Wave, Future Shock, and PowerShift.  In PowerShift he made such bold predictions as the information culture where power will be in the hands of those that hold the data.  He writes of money and how it will be used and collected faster and into similar currencies such as the Euro has done to Europe.  He also wrote about violence and how that, too, will change and it has.
  • Jeremy Rifkin - Reading the End of Work and then the Age of Access will enlighten you to a different view of the new political, social and economic views of others.  His books cover the gamut from how technology will displace workers and require different skill while at the same time access to certain information will cost money.  Access to the internet costs you money monthly, access to television that used to be free,now requires a cable or satellite charge. 
  • Ray Kurzweil - To understand Ray you must understand that Ray is a doer.  He doesn't just predict the future, he lives it.  He's invented the Kurzweil Piano, and the tool the blind use to read for OCR technology.  His last book, the Age of Spiritual Machines, talks about the future of man and machine, and how they will eventually become one.  Not a believer?  Does anyone you know have a piece of metal in them or a composite replacement part.  100 years ago, that would not be the case.  If you were going to die unless you received an artificial heart, would you do it?  Then who's to say in 20 years from now, when you're going deaf or blind, you would not want similar advancement.  Oh... read the book.  Start thinking of your future.
  • Daniel Burrus - TechnoTrends, a best seller from a man that predicted over 20 changes in the future landscape and has been right, does what all the others don't do...teach you how to think about the future.  Even his examples from a book written years ago have come true today.  In an early part of the book he talked about an eye glass manufacturer and its future based on a Russian eye surgery technique.  Then he shows the translation to laser surgery and even to color lenses.  This is a must read.  If you're not excited about the future after this one, purchase a log cabin in Wyoming to live out the balance of your life.
  • Clayton Christensen - The author of the Innovators Dilemma is not a futurist, but one that studies the past in such detail that you will see trends in the future of your business.  He studies hard drives, those things in your computer that store your data, the steel industry, excavators, PDA's, retailing, printing, motorcycles, insulin and other products and offers their challenges and victories.  In doing so, he allows readers to do the same for themselves.
To understand or to look into the future requires and understanding of indicators and a mind shift.  To possess this insight is an essential survival skill in today's business world.  You don't need to make a mark on society or put your name in history books, and learning about "The Curve" isn't necessarily going to make you rich. However, if you want to know how to stay on the cutting edge, to identify opportunities more readily, and to be in a winning position more often, learning about staying ahead of the curve is the best place to start.  Besides, the topics are interesting, fun, and great for social gatherings.

David and Lorrie Goldsmith are managing partners of MetaMatrix Consulting Group, LLC.  Their firm offers consulting and speaking services, as well as conducts seminars for senior level management.  They can be reached at (315) 476-0510 or email to business@davidgoldsmith.com


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