Friday, October 16, 2009

Where Did All the Clarity Go? (3/12)

Last time time ("Decisions -- and Non-Decisions -- Rule"), we talked about the difficulty of keeping in touch with good ideas, recognizing them and applying them in the decision-making process. It just seemed easier in the entrepreneurial days, when the decision-makers were fresh from their arm-in-arm collaboration with the customers.

But was the past really so much better -- so much easier to foresee -- in the heydey of the technology boom? Aren't we still doing a lot of co-work with customers today. Just as in times past, aren't our engineers working with customers' engineers? Has everything changed?

Well, actually, in a word -- no! In fact, virtually nothing has changed. It's just that yesterday's highly-focused, entrepreneurial firm (EF) has grown. Spurred on by its success with its initial "breakthrough" product or technology, it has become what it initially most abhored (gasp!) -- it has turned into its parent (company)!

Now, within its upstart walls and formerly freewheeling conference rooms, the customer vision has diffused. Of course, there are still engineers on EF's staff who are working shoulder to shoulder with EF's customers. And, just as in earlier times, these engineers are envisioning new products, dreaming new dreams, in concert with the engineers of the customers.

But now, rather than this insight being funneled to EF's (newly built) ivory tower, just as before, engineering dreams are often simply overlooked, or worse yet, beaten down. It has always been so VERY difficult to separate the grand vision from the pipe dream. Sometimes engineers just lose heart and don't pass on one MORE idea, only to have it routinely rejected.

At the same time, and within the context of an ongoing enterprise, there is no time for single-minded devotion to just ONE brilliant idea (even though that was how EF got started). There are lots of fish, already flopping around on the table, that need to be fried!

Caution has taken hold and mis-steps cannot be tolerated. Analysis paralysis sets in easily. Even in the face of the most-brilliant of brainstorms, lovestruck first impressions cool like an Arctic blast if they don't have real, supporting evidence to carry them through.

Where will it all end, this quandry over which ideas to follow, which to take seriously, which to defer and which to run from, faster than a speeding bullet (possibly hoping that a major competitor falls into the trap instead!)

Part 3 of 12, by Lyn Gosz, Gosz Group Technology Planners