Look to Your Left, Look to Your Right …

Look to your left, look to your right: there is a good chance that of the companies to either side of you, one will not be around ten to fifteen years from now. This was the statement made by Pat Gelsinger during VMworld’s day two general session that really caught my attention. For me personally, it brought on a flashback from my college days. On the first day of class, an instructor started his lecture with a similar statement: look to your left and look to your right—many of the people you are looking at will not be here at the end of the semester. According to Pat Gelsinger, that thought process has moved into the ever-changing world of corporate IT.

Back in college, there were several different reasons why a student might not survive until the end of the semester: not spending enough time doing the research needed, not fully understanding what was necessary to succeed, not being driven enough, or having difficulty changing and adapting to develop habits and methods for learning the material needed to survive.

When you lay things out that way, at least for me, I can understand the similarities of the statement in college and in the corporate world. Pat Gelsinger took time to lay out his points. When you get to the heart of the points he was making, the common message was that the ability to change and adapt is the most important thing. In my humble opinion, this means the ability to constantly innovate and evolve in the ever-changing world of technology.

There are, of course, other reasons why companies might not be around any more when you are looking left and looking right over time. There are a good number of startup technology companies that innovate and develop new technology with the primary intention of getting bought out—to cash out on their idea at some point along the way. How many times have we seen that scenario happen over the last fifteen years? Logic would dictate that this trend will continue during the next fifteen years.

When Pat Gelsinger made that statement during the general session, there was some shock value in the way he made it. But in all practicality, when you really think about it, it is not really a surprise at all. However, what about midsize or larger companies? Pat Gelsinger was referencing companies that have been listed on the S&P Index, but the points I have laid out still apply to all companies, from the startups to the established. If a company is unwilling to change and adapt to an ever-changing landscape, it will be left to the scavengers to pick apart what remains of its carcass. I agree with Pat Gelsinger’s main point: that once the innovations stop, the spiral of death begins. That is the most basic underlining fact of technology. Innovation leads the way, and without it, technology companies quickly become irrelevant. What was cool technology last year can be quickly replaced this year.

So look to your left, and look to your right. Which companies do you think won’t be around in the near future? In the spirit of VMworld 2016, which will be held in Las Vegas, does anyone want to make any wagers on who will make the list?

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