Tomorrow, I’m going to be giving a talk to a group of young people who have come to our organisation through our graduate programme. They are all very, very bright, and some of them are just about the most motivated to succeed I’ve seen in a while.
I love working with people at the start of their careers, and particularly this generation. The reason? They know and accept there are dinosaurs around, and they aren’t scared of them.
I know when I was starting out, there were also dinosaurs. They had all this experience, all this knowledge, probably won in the “school of hard knocks”. They were all senior, and you would never dream of questioning their determinations and decisions. If you did, there’d be consequences. I mean, what would you know about anything? Why would you be entitled to an opinion? Youngsters, you should listen and learn.
Well, that’s over.
The dinosaurs today – and I hope I’m not turning into one myself – are hopelessly ill-equipped in many cases to deal with the way things are now. The problem is their years of experience are now a hindrance in a world where what’s really important is freshness in absorbing concepts, ideas, and innovation. Things at which young generations have always excelled.
You can imagine the collective meltdown those words are likely to cause in the established IT community, of which I am a part. We’re all in charge because of all those years of experience. How dare I suggest all those years are not that valuable?
But, for example, have a look at your IT organisation, and especially at your development processes. I bet you’ll find they’re gummed up with gates, and procedures, and evaluations and reviews. Everything takes ages, and the mantras will be “reuse” and “architecture” and “governance”. These are the hallmarks of the dinosaur.
Why do I say that? Because they are mechanisms for controlling rampant spread of technology solutions in an age when doing big systems was expensive. It is still expensive, but only because of the artifacts that have been left behind when things actually were expensive. It is our control artifacts that are now making us expensive, not the problems we are asked to solve.
This new generation of tech managers we’re growing know this. They sit there and sigh when we ask for “one more gate”, knowing that the new world is completely throw away. “Just build it”, they mutter under their breaths, and could, indeed, fire up their personal laptop and do it overnight probably if they were of a mind to do so.
Don’t laugh. We had this group of students show up once and do a hack-day. In about 24 hours they’d accomplished about as much as we’d done with traditional methods in several months. Oh, of course, it wasn’t “governed”, and “reusable” and “consistent with our architecture”. But is was throwaway. Throwaway is what you want when the cost of development is a reducing function.
And it is a reducing function. I am amazed at what young-people start-ups can accomplish with practically no money. They maybe get half a million dollars from an angel investor and a month or two later have a system that’s actually really useful and which people are desperate to use.
They go into these ventures serially. They work until something is obviously not working, throw it away, and start again. It is no accident that many of the most successful tech entrepreneurs presently are pretty young. They’re not dinosaurs.
Anyway, back to what I’m going to say to these young technology managers I’m going to speaking to tomorrow.
Firstly, I’m going to tell them to recognise there are dinosaurs around. I’m going to tell them their bark is worse than their bite and even if they get bitten, they have years to recover. But of course, the best won’t get bitten, because they will be clever about how they get their messages across.
And I’m going to tell them to question everything that comes from dinosaurs. And that their inexperience with the old way of doing things is their best chance to make a huge difference now.