When I was at my Military Intelligence Officer’s course in the mid-1980’s, our coursework was almost completely focused on encountering Soviet armored divisions storming into Germany’s Fulda Gap, despite the fact a) that battle had already been thoroughly planned and we weren’t going to add any insights, and b) it was clear at that point that the Cold War was shifting to new venues. Within four years of that time the Berlin Wall had fallen and I was in a war in the Middle East.
Here’s another example of how organizations have been resistant to change: In the hilarious memo below, written in 1935, Col. Hoffman – a member of the Army Air Corps – objects to taking “Equitation” (horsemanship) classes in part because he fails “… to see that horses have any place in the science of aviation”. Unsurprisingly, his request was denied.
It’s not just the military however. We humans are terrible at change. It frightens us – a fact that deserves some consideration given the fact change is coming faster than ever.
Luddites were people who smashed machinery they saw threatening their jobs. Now it’s a term used to describe hopelessly backwards-looking people who think they can beat back technology. Nobody wants to be called a Luddite.
When the first railway opened, detractors said that the human body was not meant to travel at 30 miles per hour and could possibly melt at that speed (similar concerns were voiced about super-sonic flight several decades later).
The newly-invented telephone was claimed by some to be an instrument of the devil. Versions of this accusation have been voiced about virtually every other new communication method, except for the fax machine – which may in fact have actually been an instrument of the devil (word of the fax machine’s death has not yet reached the HIPAA-regulated medical community: “no we can’t email your health information directly to your personal, password-protected email address, but we can send images of that same medical info to a fax machine located in a high-traffic area at your place of work”).
It’s easy to be smart about bad ideas of the past. But we humans repeat our mistakes. Here are some changes that are coming: