Last week I replayed a 20-year-old diatribe that ridiculed my mythical (is that the same as legendary?) Value Prevention Society.
I founded the VPS in a bygone era in which the worst harm DYI applications could inflict was pretty minor and the potential value was, in relative terms, high.
The point of ridiculing the VPS was that the excessive pursuit of safety … well, the name says it: The excessive pursuit of safety prevents value from happening.
The world, however, has changed more than a bit. Being a malicious actor is cheaper and easier than ever; meanwhile, malicious actors are more often state-sponsored or organized crime.
So failing to take prudent steps to prevent the harm malicious entities can now inflict can now lead to outcomes that aren’t just annoying. They can be catastrophic.
And yet, other than scale, nothing has changed: While malicious actors can inflict serious harm, preventing innovation is, in the long run, a certain path to disaster.
Even worse is the mental habit that encourages the rise and persistence of the VPS – the inability or unwillingness to engage in systems thinking, and in particular the tendency to only look at a situation from just one perspective among many.
VPS members, as a general rule, only look at the reasons to not do something.
No, change that. Looking at the reasons for not doing something and considering the existence of those reasons compelling is the defining qualification for VPS membership.
But one-sided logic isn’t the exclusive province of the VPS. It can come into play whenever any of us have to choose anything, from hiring a job applicant, to deciding who to vote for, to answering the question, “Do you want fries with that?”
Bob’s last word: I got my start in punditry challenging Gartner’s Total Cost of Ownership methodology as applied to personal computers. I objected to it in large part because of its self-evident one-sidedness: It looked (ready for the obvious part?) at cost but not the benefits associated with each component of cost.
For example, training was included as a cost but not the benefit of having well-trained employees taking better advantage of their personal computers.
So in conclusion, please: Don’t make me resurrect the VPS. Avoiding one-sidedness isn’t all that hard. It starts with the magic words, “Yeah, but …” and goes on to list and consider at least a few different angles to look at whatever you’re looking at from.
I think that last sentence was grammatical, but I’ll leave parsing it up to you.
Bob’s sales pitch: I’m not in the mood to pitch anything. You know what I do. Consider yourself pitched.
Now appearing on CIO.com: “Brilliance: The CIO’s most seductive career-limiting trait.”
What it’s about: Smart CIOs know how to solve problems and pursue opportunities. Smarter ones expend their time and effort spotting and brokering the great ideas that can do this.
Bob, I am retiring this week, and have unsubscribed from my work email address. Thank you for providing that sane voice in the wilderness all these years. As the only IT pundit I have ever subscribed to, you have provided me with insight and ways to move forward in my career as both an individual contributor and a manager. You may see me again as a different email address, but regardless, I wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors and keep on keeping on.
Thanks for the kind words and good wishes, Dave. Let me return them – I hope you enjoy your retirement, especially as something you’re starting, not defined by what you’re going to stop doing.
Insightful as always!
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