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If you don’t know where you are going then the direction does not matter!


Guest articles > If you don’t know where you are going then the direction does not matter!


by: Jim Rickard


“If we open a quarrel between the past and the present, we shall find that we have lost the future”
   -- Winston Churchill 1874-1965

Perhaps you have heard the old story of the two people in the car who are lost, one asks “where are we”? and the response is “I don’t know but we are making good time”.

As leaders of organizations, we can be lost and yet making good time, until we drive our organizations into the ditch if we are not paying attention to the direction we are heading.

There are literally thousands of companies that had the chance to be successful but somewhere along the line their leadership failed to look ahead for opportunities and plan for threats to their survival.

We must, as leaders know who we are what we are and where we have come from and we must know the history of our organization to help us stay successful. Four common questions that can help us drive our organizations towards success are 1) Where are we going? 2) How are we going to get there? 3) What are we going to do when we get there? 4) How we are we going to pay for it?

In Greek Mythology the story is told of Daedalus and Icarus who escaped their imprisonment by creating wings of feathers held together by wax. They were successful in their escape but Icarus did not listen to his father’s wise counsel about neither flying to high nor to low. He flew to high, the sun melted the wax and he plunged to his death in the sea.

The goal for leaders in any organization is to strike a balance between flying too low or too high. If our organization is underperforming the stakeholders will exact “their pound of flesh” by selling their shares or stakes in the company. If the organization is flying high, monies and stakeholders move in for a period of time until the stock begins to dive at which time monies move out looking for the next high flying stock.

Organizations that take the short- term view of their market rather than the long-term view can find themselves held hostage by profiteers whose only goal is to make money. The goal of the leader in an organization is to make sure that the organization not only survives, but thrives as an innovator in the competitive world that we live in today.

In the global economy that exists today every company is in competition with others of its particular industry and its distribution networks and must continually be looking forward to the future to anticipate trends and changes that will impact their business.

Leaders must be able to possess insight and foresight in identifying trends and emerging conditions that will impact the very survival of their companies. The days of resting on success are over, as there is always another “up and comer” ready to take advantage of a business opportunity if another company seems to be not paying attention.

In the technology sector Apple is without peer in innovating new and exciting products and devices that everyone wants, if not needs, to use in their personal lives and in business. The late Steve Jobs was a person of incredible vision and foresight and his products have literally changed the way we work, think and view the world. In fact, as you read this article the chances are that you are viewing it on a product that Apple has touched or created i.e.iPad, iPad2 and now iPad 3. Apple recently passed 25 Billion downloads from its App Store and in a recent press release stated that it’s “ecosystem associated with its devices has created 514,000 US jobs with more than 200,000 jobs in its App business “. Apple is now the world’s most valuable company with stock prices recently closing at $545.18 per share.

Five key emerging trends in the technology sector are 1) expansion of internet 2) the cloud 3) improved computers, 4) Business Intelligence, 5) Virtualization.

The internet has far surpassed any expectation of it when it was originally a group of computers at different universities sharing information back and forth. Today the web is everywhere and continues to grow exponentially. It is the subject of governments trying to control it or tax it or censor it in countries that are ruled by dictatorial powers. This is the proverbial “genie out of the bottle” it cannot be placed back in the bottle by any power on earth, at this point in time, nor should it be. The internet will continue to grow and will be in every aspect of our lives and technology; from turning on our house lights remotely with the app on our phone that we downloaded from Apple, to remotely turning on our security systems at home to check on the kids. As different versions of software are introduced to the market I envision that the internet will also move into differing versions i.e. version 1, 2, 3, 4 etc. and will eventually be able to harness the power of millions of computers simultaneously. This can be hailed as a mixed blessing, as the law of unintended consequences with this type of power will surely take place somewhere in the future.

The cloud is one of those words that everyone knows what it is but no one really knows what is meant by it because “fuzzy logic” sometimes gets in the way of what we are trying to convey to someone. In realistic terms you could say that “the cloud” is just another name for the internet and you would be right. If you thought that the cloud was the latest and greatest thing since “sliced bread” you would also be partially right. In basic terms the cloud is a tool to be used and mastered presently and in the future, as it is still evolving in IT circles by some of the best and brightest minds in the field. We have all used Web based services or will eventually use them in personal banking to access our accounts and to check our balances. This used to be done at the bank then later the ATM machine could give us a balance, now we can check it on our computer or on our mobile device that we carry around with us.

Personal computers have grown smaller and more powerful through the last ten years and in the next 10 years personal computing will be vastly different than now. We now are able to talk and video communicate on our computers through Skype, ooVoo, and various other programs. We can dictate into our computer through programs like Nuance Dragon Naturally speaking; which will have many applications for use in the future to help those who are not able to physically use a keyboard or choose not to. With the increasing power in computers it is not a stretch to see that holographic images will soon be available to the general public and not just available on large system commercial machines.

Business Intelligence or (BI) as it is commonly known offers an array of data that has been synthesized through the common collection device known as the computer. Think of the common collection device as a bucket that collects rainwater and out of the bucket run several lines to other buckets or storage areas. Each of these storage areas could hold various types of valuable information for a company that makes business sense when viewed independently. One storage bucket could hold performance reviews for employees; another could contain information on vendors that the company deals with on a regular basis; or information on data mining, statistical analysis, forecasting etc. This information if used effectively can allow a business to be better prepared for the future of their business and to have a competitive advantage over their business rivals.

Virtualization can involve taking Business Intelligence information sources and having them as a web-based application that can be accessed from anywhere with the proper authentication codes and safeguards. There are cost benefits to companies using virtualization applications for their operating systems, application servers, and hardware applications among others. One of the benefits of virtualization presently is that data can be stored securely offsite and reactivated quickly In the event of a disaster or a terroristic event. One of the questions that arise from these types of off-site storage areas in the virtual world is “Who owns the data and what happens to it if a company wants to hold our data hostage”? These are questions to consider for not only the present; but also for the future success of companies who have the foresight to be actively planning and taking the long-term view of business and to know where they are going.


A former United States Marine, Jim Rickard has worked with a major international non-profit organization since 1983 and he has earned his BA in Criminal Justice Administration, Master of Public Administration and Master of Business Administration. Jim lives with his family in Brandon, MS and is currently pursuing his Doctor of Strategic Leadership degree with Regent University, Virginia Beach, Virginia.

Contributor: Jim Rickard

Published here on: 18-Mar-12

Classification: Leadership


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