One Thing That Never Changes – And Needs To

If you remember, fifteen years ago about this time, we were on the verge of worldwide catastrophe. Troops were not on the march, nor were missile silos being readied. No, the world was about to end, when the calendar changed to the year 2000. Because the date program in computers had been programed for only 2 digits to indicate the year, every computer-based system on the planet was going to explode.  Would 00 mean the year 2000 or the year 1900? Y2K as it was known, meant worldwide disaster for sure. But the moment the ball finished its drop in Times Square, the lights stayed on, the water faucets and ATM’s still worked, and airplanes remained on course. No one really knew what that normally insignificant change of date would result in, but through a massive amount of thinking, working, testing etc., all survived.

I also remember in late 1999 reading an article about change, not specially related to Y2K. The writer offered something like:

As we approach the new century, there is an unprecedented amount of political unrest, massive change is occurirng  in virtually industry, including transportation and communications, and technology of all kinds is changing the way people live and work everyday. The world has never experienced change like this.

Then there was the aha moment in the article. It  had actually been written in 1899, and the comments were about the beginnings of the 1900’s.  My guess is that message will be true again in 2099 and years beyond.

Change is a tough topic to get our hands around. Some change happens naturally, like the aging of our bodies, or canyons being carved by rivers and glaciers. But so much of the change that we deal with daily is self-imposed. We have created it, to make life better, easier, more convenient, enjoyable, healthy or  profitable. And that will never stop, nor will it ever slow down. Seems to be some truth in the expression, “the only thing that does not change is change itself.”

Sadly, there appears to be one other thing that never changes, and that is topic of my remaining comments. Without fail, you can be assured that for every technological advancement, there will always be a dark side that surfaces as well. What a shame this is.

Here are some examples. I love the fact that as I am Skyping with someone halfway around the world, I can watch them receive an email I sent an instant earlier. That is utterly amazing. I hate the fact the hackers with robo-programs can flood the social airwaves with threats (real or not) about whether a movie should be released. I love that people anywhere can hear instantly about an earthquake in Mexico or a gold medal winner in Russia. I hate that instant information, which is often simply opinion or conjecture, is immediately taken as fact, because of immense visibility. I love the genius of using technology to create the always inspiring Virtual Choir (a YouTube sensation). I hate the evil exploitation of technology to create havoc through legitimate looking email that is actually virus-carrying Spam. Seems we confront Pandora’s Box nearly every day in technology, and will continue to do so. If only we could figure out a way to change this pattern!

As you recall during the holidays, one of the big stories was about the pre-emptive cyberstrike to derail the release of the movie, The Interview.  Few, if anyone, could have imagined that an event such as this was even remotely possible. Not only did it occur, but for Pete’s sake, it even got the attention of the President’ of the United States.  As this blog is being written, there is swirling controversy about whether the threats on the movie originated in North Korea, or from a disgruntled, yet very tech-savvy Sony employee. Either way, the “dark forces” have now developed another technology-based option on how to sabotage future economic or social opportunities.

So leaders, a couple of points to ponder. First accept the fact that one thing which will never change is the presence of “bad guys” out there trying to exploit your products in the wrong way, or use your own systems against you. (And just to be clear, I am not referring to ethical competitors who are simply battling to out-differentiate you  in the marketplace.) It will do you good to think about this reality a little more than you have in the past.   Don’t allow a lack of attention to threats deemed virtually “impossible to occur, leave you with permanent regrets.  Unfortunately, they do happen and with growing frequency. Just ask Sony, Home Depot, Target, or anyone else who has been breached, in spite of unhackable security systems.

And finally, there are enough bad guys outside your business, so don’t contribute to creating more inside. Make it a priority to create a place that is positive for people, where they can grow, prosper and do their best. Keep the channels of communications open with everyone, and never let wrong assumptions trump genuine understanding about their values and needs.  A great workplace with highly engaged people is not just about high employee attitude or engagement survey scores. Your good people are likely the best defense you have against the outside bad guys, who seem to take pleasure in causing you grief. If we cannot change their destructive attitudes and actions, perhaps we can change what we do to derail them.

Best wishes throughout 2015


  1. “Make it a priority to create a place that is positive for people, where they can grow, prosper and do their best. Keep the channels of communications open with everyone, and never let wrong assumptions trump genuine understanding about their values and needs.”

    These 2 sentences pack the power behind the rest of your comments. Having worked in situations where these things are a reality and where they are not; the defining characteristic that leaders must have to accomplish creating such a place is real courage. Not bravado driven by ego or fear, but the genuine aspiration to seek out and promote the truth, which is the platform for trust. The most powerful destructive forces are more often than not, harbored within.

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