Since just before Christmas I posted An Enterprise Carol, I decided just before New Year’s to post An Enterprise Resolution.
In her article The Irrational Allure of the Next Big Thing, Karla Starr examined why people value potential over achievement in books, sports, and politics. However, her findings apply equally well to technology and the enterprise’s relationship with IT.
“Subjectivity and hype,” Starr explained, “make people particularly prone to falling for Next Best Thing-ism.”
“Our collective willingness to jump on the bandwagon,” Starr continued, “seems at odds with one of psychology’s most robust findings: We are averse to uncertainty. But as it turns out, our reaction to incomplete information depends on our interpretation of the scant data we do have. Uncertainty is a sort of amplifier, intensifying our response whether it’s positive or negative. As long as we react positively to the little information shown, we’re actually attracted to uncertainty. It’s curiosity rather than knowledge that leads to increased cognitive engagement. If the only information at hand is positive, your mind is going to fill in the gaps with other positive details. A whiff of positive information is all we need to set our minds aflutter.”
In his book Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman explained “when people are favorably disposed toward a technology, they rate it as offering large benefits and imposing little risk; when they dislike a technology, they can think only of its disadvantages, and few advantages come to mind. People who receive a message extolling the benefits of a technology also change their beliefs about its risks. Good technologies have few costs in the imaginary world we inhabit, bad technologies have no benefits, and all decisions are easy. In the real world of course, we often face painful tradeoffs between benefits and costs.”
In his book What Technology Wants, Kevin Kelly explained that technology has a social dimension beyond the mere functionality it provides. “We adopt new technologies largely because of what they do for us, but also in part because of what they mean to us. Often we refuse to adopt technology for the same reason: because of how the avoidance reinforces or shapes our identity.”
So, in 2013, as the big data hype cycle comes down from the peak of inflated expectations, as the painful tradeoffs between the benefits and costs of cloud computing are faced, and as IT consumerization continues to reshape the identity of the IT function, let’s make an enterprise resolution to deal with these realities before we go off chasing the next best thing. Happy New Year!