In Handy’s book, “The Age of Unreason”, I found an interesting prediction coming from 1988 report on teleworking prepared by the Henley Centre in Britain. According to that prediction, gasoline stations were to lose business (along with railway companies) as commuting was to decline due to teleworking. We all know now how did that turned out – not only gasoline stations are still there, but they are doing well. Railway companies are a different story – those are not profitable due to a whole range of reasons other than telecommuting.
Why this prediction never came true? I think that the reason for this lies in general cowardice on part of our executives. I also think that we can explain a lot of today’s problems by the same factor. Just look here: http://thedx.druckerinstitute.com/2011/09/risky-business/
I think that our bosses cling too much to traditional ways of doing business, to traditional ways of controlling work, that they are too afraid of inventing or accepting new innovation into daily work. They are afraid of measuring other than traditional things, they are simply afraid that they will look bad, as (another old tradition) they are held personally accountable (at least in terms of peer opinion or CV entries) for the results.
Therefore it is safer to force workers to come to and leave their desks at specified time because we can measure work by the hours and days. Logic says that measuring results would be better, but the tools to do that are not there or the existing ones are not accepted, especially that results are things which have already happened and hours spent in work are happening now. Our directors are afraid that even if all project steps are delivered as those should be (on time, within budget etc), the overall result – the one required – still can be missed. It is of course obvious that this result cannot be saved by unproductive presence in work. Obvious to me at least…
The same thing applies to investing and growing. This requires imagination and courage, and both are being punished right now by irrationality of so-called market expectations and investors.
Before we can expect courage from our CEOs we should though remove irrationality from markets. This, again, requires courage and imagination on part of regulators and governments. Unfortunately the same factors keeping them from being courageous in their decision-making are as valid as with various CEOs. We have an age of cowardice.