Y2K All Over: Will we ever learn?

Sometimes the wise all heads respond to the crisis of the day by referencing to the ‘last time this happened; or ‘been there done that’. That frustrates the generation because it is point of reference they don’t understand and argue that is not or cannot be ‘the same’ as before.

As usual, both generations are right.

But there is no denying that many events follow patterns and we’d be silly not to learn from those unless we are determined to let ego get in the way. An event that will be in the experience framework of the majority of managers over 30 will be that of the Y2K bug.

Just in case you don’t know or remember: traditional programming practice in early computer programming languages was to code dates with as few digits as possible, which led the practice of expressing your year as last two digits, so 1985 would be simply 85 – with a one line of code turning all date references into the proper date.

In 1999 most businesses of any substance devoted a large amount of time and resources to ensuring they survive the year 2000 calamity. (Personally I had to forfeit New Year’s Eve celebrations with my family to see Bankstown Square (as it was then) into the new millennium because we feared all the systems might shut down.

For example we worried that boom gates wouldn’t open and allow customers to enter the centre the following day because the Building Management System was somewhat archaic. I had visions of bank safes popping open and ATMs spitting money into the mall and was going to be accountable for finding and returning it all.

As you know now, nothing of any consequence happened. The airplanes did not fall from the sky.

Most anticipated crises never happen and the things we worry about most are often things that no amount of worrying would fix anyway.

There are many current calamitous claims about retail. Ironically, many of these claims are made by retailers.

The ‘INTERNET’ is the current bogeyman – the new Y2K Bug.

As we learned from the Y2K bug offer some relevant insights:

1.      Sure, we should prepare and plan.

2.      Certainly, we should change what we can.

3.      Of course we must monitor what is happening.

But the internet will change the way we do business in ways we don’t really foresee. A very short time ago it was the ‘mobile revolution’; right now it is ‘wearables’ and the ‘internet of things’.

Tomorrow – something else.

Change will happen – that we can bet on. But exactly how it will pan out, NOBODY knows. And those who claim to be the surest about it will be the most surprised by what eventually transpires.