Gradually, Gradually, then Suddenly
Where would we be without technology during this pandemic? Our students would not have been able to continue their educational journeys. Many patients could continue to receive care through telehealth and virtual visits. Doctors and professors all got more comfortable with these tools we’ve been pushing at them for the better part of a decade. Think of all the customer support organizations who emptied their call centers and moved their representatives home to continue taking calls.
New technology is often met with skepticism – is it going to work? Is it going to provide value? The challenge is it usually starts with a lot of hype – a talented entrepreneur-storyteller raising money and selling promises. Most tech companies flame out; occasionally we get a new billionaire; and in extreme rare air we get a new celebrity. But eventually technology does follow Amara’s law – we tend to overestimate its effect in the short run and underestimate its effect in the long run.
The inspiration for this blog title came from a scene in the Hemingway novel The Sun Also Rises, where one of the key characters, Mike Campbell, is asked, “How did you go bankrupt?” His response is “Gradually … then suddenly.” Technology kind of works that way. It starts out innocuous enough, a few of the early adopters play with it, raise a bunch of money, flame then fizzle. But within those flameouts are a few nuggets that stay with us and ultimately change the way we work, live and interact. When we look back it seems so self-evident that we should always have had this, like Google Maps. My son recently asked me, “What did you do? Fold and unfold the paper map in the car? While driving?”
Yes, yes we did.
These days, I spend my working time in the fields of higher education and healthcare, where the adoption of technology and aggressive use of data have been slower than other industries. However, the transformational impact in just the last two months alone to adapt to the pandemic has been so profound (see my above examples), I think we need to say we’ve flown past “gradually” and just hit “suddenly.”
This blog is dedicated to that premise – how is new technology going to impact the way we work? “Gradually, gradually, then suddenly.” How will analytics and data science change the way we make decisions? “Gradually, gradually, then suddenly.” How will digital connections with patients with smart devices in their homes allow my parents to live independently for the remainder of their days? You get the idea.
In my posts, I will share perspectives, examples, expert opinion leaders across the domains of higher education and healthcare, and discuss the changing role of technology professionals in organizations. We’ll do some blogging and some vlogging; try to keep it fresh. I hope these pieces help crystallize your thinking on where the next “suddenly” opportunity will emerge, how you might shape your organization’s role to benefit from it, and how you position your team to lead in the journey.
I will leave you with this bit of history that I shared with my son. For millennia, maps have been relied on for navigation. Gradually, we came to have maps available on the internet; and then gradually, we could print out and place driving directions on the car seat next us; and then suddenly we could do all this on our mobile phones.
Be well, be safe, and stay tuned.