Obsolescence, Irrelevance, & Failing to Dream “Big Enough”

Obsolescence, Irrelevance, & Failing to Dream “Big Enough”

Yesterday saw the announcement of a coming new iPhone (the iPhone 7), with much of the attention across social media given over to the lack of a headphone jack, coupled with expensive new wireless earbuds (“Air Buds”, @ $160 a pair), that will soon be lost in a washing machine near you.

“Courageous?” Or simply idiotic? I can see it both ways.

I mean, I can’t keep up with my wired earbuds, much less multiplying them by two, and then disconnecting them.

One thing it definitely is, though, is audacious. Moxie, chutzpah, and cojones are also words that come to my mind.

Now, traditionally, Apple has been a company that “dreams big.” But – are wireless earbuds “dreaming big” – or just derivative? Will these new accessories soon find their way into the obsolescent dust bin of digital history (along with the 8 track tape, VHS, and – soon – optical media)?

Hey – if I knew that, I wouldn’t be writing this at 6 am; I’d be shorting Apple.

I’m not one to judge; I can look back at many times in my professional life, when I thought I was dreaming big, but soon realized that I hadn’t dreamed quite big enough.

A few years ago I did a technology refresh, one that was a long time coming, and very much needed. It was sizeable in scale – and cost – and so, high visibility, and high stakes.

The refresh came off great. Our users were happy, and our students were happy.

But: we soon came to realize that we had neglected to accommodate an emerging cable standard – HDMI – that would have simplified our classroom AV support, and ended up limiting the number of devices we needed to support without buying additional adapters.

It’s hard – and embarrassing – to go back and retrofit a retrofit that you just completed.

We had not failed to “dream big.” We had failed to “dream big enough.”

In either of my roles as COO or CIO, I’m continually tasked with assessing project proposals that I try to judge not only on their merits, but also on the anticipation of the inevitable change of “facts on the ground”, that will determine whether the decision to move forward will be deemed innovative – or merely irrelevant.

Prescience is in very limited supply among us mere mortals.

All one can really do is try to act with the best facts available at the time, know as much as you can about your audiences and your working environment, and trust your instincts.

We can recognize obsolescence clearly, when it’s staring us in the face, in the immediate now – but we’re blind to its lurking presence, merely a few steps into the future.

Dream big.

But dream big enough.

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