The NFL games have begun. Apple has announced its latest iPhone/Watch creations. The 2015 model trucks and cars have begun their manufacturing cycle. The fall new TV programs are playing. All these make for some great theater.
On my white board is, "However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results." That quote is attributed to Winston Churchill. I have this in big black letters, so that I and others can stay sober about our prospects.
Why? We often get enamored with an all-encompassing plan that sweeps us into its grip. It makes sense, it's futuristic, others buy in, and when we get there, it will put us on the map. It becomes our obsession, our purpose, and we have to drop other things so that we can concentrate our resources on it.
I've been there. Have you?
I would say that all great accomplishments need this type of spirit. I am sure that Steve Jobs felt this way many times. So have Elon Musk and Mark Cuban and many others. It takes great enthusiasm to get a futuristic venture off the ground. Failure is not an option. After all, if you're not overflowing with fervor, then others will question the plan and your resolve. In fact, spending any time on the downside just throws a wet blanket on the whole thought process.
At Data Translation, we're currently engaged in just such an idea. The promise is to make a new product thrust in data acquisition that allows local processing for faster, better measurement. It uses totally new chips and new software, and it isn't something that we have done this way before. Is it a risk? Yes, a big one for us.
That's also what makes it exciting. If there wasn't any downside, there would be no excitement. A winner needs the opposite -- a loser. So Churchill also said:
Every day you may make progress. Every step may be fruitful. Yet there will stretch out before you an ever-lengthening, ever-ascending, ever-improving path. You know you will never get to the end of the journey. But this, so far from discouraging, only adds to the joy and glory of the climb.
How do you know when you are on the road to success or, conversely, on a losing trail? If it works the same for you as for me, there is no defined time or event. Essentially, some outside data starts creeping up in your thinking. That data becomes a bigger and bigger factor. You try to deflect it away, but it stays and grows.
Then you face the inevitable, which almost always involves money.
In my previous case, a business downturn forced me to face the reality of what we were spending on a new product line. As Churchill said, "occasionally look at the results." It forced me to put aside my high-sounding excitement and face facts. The results were poor, even though I had told myself that it was too early, and that, given enough time, the market would recognize how good the product was.
It wasn't easy. As a matter of fact, I dreaded having to cut the effort that I had been so excited about. But then an amazing thing happened. After I faced up to the cuts and dealt with it, an inner peace took place. Things got better and easier. What I had dreaded became my savior and my path forward.
So in technology, as in life, I'm left with Churchillís wisdom, "It's not enough that we do our best; sometimes we have to do what's required."