I grew up in a generation that learned how to use a slide rule to speed up mathematical calculations. Electric typewriters were still a novelty, and manual 10-key adding machines were commonly in use. During my lifetime, I’ve seen an explosion of technology that so many young people take for granted.
The pace has been so rapid that I’ve had to routinely replace my home computer every five or six years in order to keep up. When I buy a computer, I buy the fastest, most technologically advanced model on the market. But there’s a better machine introduced within a month of my purchase.
I’m reluctant to embrace new technology in many areas of my life. I don’t own an iPod or a laptop, and I’ve only owned a cell phone for a few years. Recently, I made the momentous decision to switch from a Windows-based computer to a Mac. My two youngest sons were instrumental in convincing me to embrace this new operating system.
In preparing for this changeover, I carefully copied all my files onto an external backup drive. I routinely copied my important documents that I didn’t want to lose — financial information, published articles and genealogical information — onto it for safekeeping. I’m keenly aware that hard drives can fail without notice, taking your most precious files with it.
One of my co-workers recently learned this the hard way. He didn’t take advantage of the file space given to him on the server to use for storing or backing up his files. One day, without warning, the hard drive failed and shut down his computer.
The experts aren’t sure how much, if any, of the information on his hard drive can be retrieved. Years of work involving sales contacts, contracts and important dates may be lost. His grief over the lost files and his embarrassment over his failure to back up his files ensure that he’ll never make this mistake again.
As I work to learn the full capabilities of my new computer, I’m reminded every day about the challenges we managers face in embracing new technologies.
These technologies may be found in washroom chemistry, water recycling systems, computerized controls, linen products and information technologies. A majority of the managers I know are from my generation, and we struggle adapting to these changes. That may explain why it takes our industry so long to fully embrace these changes.
I must admit that once I’ve overcome my fear or laziness and taken the time to learn something new, I quickly understand how it benefits me and take full advantage of what it has to offer.
At the rate I’m going, it’ll take me at least a year to fully appreciate all the things my new computer has to offer. Speed is not a concern in this case. I can take my time and learn it at my own leisure.
In the world of business, I need to move a little quicker and try to stay ahead of my competitors. But there’s a certain amount of risk associated with being on the leading edge of technology.
It seems that in the laundry industry, many items are created and sold to the customer before the real-world testing begins. But I’d rather be on the leading edge, helping to modify the product, than bringing up the rear and trying to explain to my customers why we haven’t made the change or embraced the new service.
Staying ahead of my competitors is much like two friends hiking in the woods. The pair stumble across a female bear with her cubs, and the protective mother charges the hikers. “You know we can’t outrun this bear!” one friend shouts to the other. His friend replies, “I don’t need to outrun the bear! I just need to outrun you.”
Older managers must be sure they can embrace new technologies as fast as the new, younger managers coming into the marketplace.