Supplying Thought: Back to the Future

09 Nov 2016 10:05 AM | Christon Valdivieso

Authored By: Christon Valdivieso

Edited By: Afton Knight

Technology has always had a way of working its way into society. From concept to maturity, technology slowly works into our lives as the shiny new thing and then fades into ubiquity. Take the recent examples of blockchain supported crypto-currency and autonomous automobiles. Less than five years ago both were “neat” ideas that only a small subset of the population was focused on. However, in the last year-and-a-half major financial institutions have begun experimenting with blockchain technology. Similarly, companies like Ford and Chevy have realized the imminent change in the auto industry and as a result, have started focusing on autonomous vehicles. The past couple weeks might have marked the next tipping point.

Hyperloop One, a company based upon an idea from Elon Musk to quickly transport people across the country, recently made headlines for its new round of funding and appointment of a new financial executive. Taken by itself, the recent news might not seem like a game changer, but their new direction is a different matter. According to the Wall Street Journal’s Georgia Wells, Hyperloop One has reached an agreement to explore “a hyperloop system to move containers”.

The original goal of Hyperloop One was to transport people from Los Angeles to New York City within 30 minutes, but with a focus on containers Hyperloop One could disrupt the transportation industry. Rail and OTR (over-the-road) operators will find it difficult to sell a seven day Los Angeles to New York transport time when Hyperloop One is offering the same lane for less than 2 hours. In a world where same-day delivery is growing in popularity, Hyperloop One—if successful—is poised to be the railroad industry of the future.

This new transit system could also help smaller cities become tax-free zones as containers can be unloaded in Los Angeles and then transported and stored in places like Oklahoma within hours. The cost will undoubtedly be exorbitant, but the ROI would be significant.

With disruptions like Hyperloop One lurking on the horizon for almost every industry, how can companies stay on the frontline? The answer might be easier than it seems. Professional athletes are faced with a similar situation every year as new recruits come into the system. Yet athletes like Kobe Bryant, Petyon Manning, and Michael Phelps remain at the top of their respective sports.

I have read many articles by millennials suggesting an about-face from current practices to invigorate the company with youth and new ideas. However, we can learn about the folly of this thinking from people like Mike. Mike is a father of two. In his youth he loved playing sports. His favorite was basketball. Although he was not extremely tall he prided himself in the fact that he was once able to dunk. As his kids grew up he was eager to share his passion. One day when his kids were old enough, Mike decided to impress them by showing them that their dad could dunk. Realizing his age, Mike stopped to stretch before attempting the feat remembering the importance of staying limber. Somewhere in the process of showing-off in front of his kids, Mike tore his meniscus—and was not able to dunk the ball.

The critical difference between Mike and the professional athletes is that the athletes continue to train and stay limber. Furthermore, they adjust their training to their body’s needs. The same is true for companies. Hiring a new generation of leaders is not enough to remain at the forefront. Companies that balance innovation and moderation in their culture, workforce, and systems will be more able to see the disruptions on the horizon and react accordingly.

The business landscape constantly reminds us that there is a cost to ignoring market disruptions; but there is also a cost to pivoting to those disruptions too quickly. Thus, I supply this thought: is your company’s process meant to invigorate or innovate?


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