An old boss once said Information Technology was like trying to walk up the down escalator. If you slowed down, you'd be going backwards. And it seems like the escalator is moving faster every year!
Good or Bad Luck?
Industry change is driven by business disruption, and it's often impossible to tell when this change is good or bad news for yourself.
Answer this question: would an airline attendant who survived three airplane crashes be considered lucky or unlucky? Lucky to survive? Or unlucky to be in the accidents?
Behavioral Psychologist Dr. Richard Wiseman faced this intriguing question as he conducted his famous research study on luck.
"The Luck Project"
studied 600 participants to understand why some people are lucky and others unlucky. Half were in the "lucky" group and the other half "unlucky". The study found that some people were, indeed, measurably luckier than others.
Wiseman's had a dilemma in placing the flight attendant. Which group did he choose? The surprising answer was based on the person's own attitude toward the accidents.
My Three Airplane Crashes
I had reason to think about luck when another one of my vendors went into bankruptcy. I've got an unbroken streak of picking losers in the IT business.
My first foray into sales was with the #1 Office Automation reseller in the mid 1980's, Lanier Business Products. Hard to believe this powerhouse of productivity could ever go out of favor, but it did.
"$8,000, and this beauty can be yours!"
Three years later, Lanier was dumping their inventory on the Home Shopping Channel. Four years later the division was out of business. Bad luck!?!
Fool Me Once....
I vowed never to make that mistake again, and joined forces with the #1 computer company in the world, IBM. They had a 60% market share, solid margins, and strategic relationships with every major account. What could possibly go wrong?
Dell, Gateway, and a slew of faster, nimbler competitors soon knocked IBM out of the #1 market position, and in a few years they also pulled the plug on the business. More bad luck for me, it seemed.
Won't Get Fooled Again.....
Next time, I vowed to cast my lot with the biggest, baddest quasi-monopoly in the world, AT&T. They were THE PHONE COMPANY, and they were #1 in telephone sales, central office sales, and long distance sales. What could possibly go wrong?
We know how this movie
ends, and it ain't pretty. AT&T spun off Lucent, which spun off Avaya. They all had a pretty good ride for a few years until, like Wile E. Coyote, they realized they had just had run off a cliff. Avaya declared bankruptcy in January.
As information technology grows and evolves, we are seeing more companies go in and out of business.
Isn't this bad for the poor bastards who have to sell these products? In most cases, no. Often, it's the best thing that could possibly happen to us. New products can deliver better margins and open up new markets.
Every time a new disruptive technology enters the market, it's Cowabunga! time for smart, aggressive salespeople.
Let's not get too sentimental at the collateral damage in our industry. Let's be opportunistic!
Good or Bad Luck?
Back to my original question.
Q: Was the flight attendant who survived three airline crashes considered lucky or unlucky for the purposes of Dr. Wiseman's Luck Survey?
A: She was included in the "unlucky" group by her own choice, because she identified herself as unlucky.
This just goes to prove what's good and bad, lucky or unlucky is just a frame of mind.
My opinion: Great sales and business people constantly run up the down escalator, and turn bad luck into good luck!
A final thought: This man lived to nearly 100, and led a highly impactful, celebrated life. He was a world-famous crusader for nuclear non-proliferation. Who also , by the way, was nearly killed by not one, but two nuclear bombs.