Best laid plans and apple carts

The view to the horizon from our apartment is breathtaking. It’s also unobstructed, which is what sealed the deal in the first place. Five months ago, a sign went up across the street outlining a multi-tower, multi-storey condominium development. As of this moment, the lot in question isn’t zoned for anything even vaguely resembling that development. But if it goes ahead, I stand to lose half of that view— the better half.

There’s a lesson in this: something always manages to come along to upset your applecart. In this second decade of the 21st century those somethings are coming from everywhere and they’re coming thick and fast. We call them “disruptive technologies” and “game changers”.

Intel explained its lower sales by saying that tablet computers are siphoning off business from its traditional PC base. Wireless devices are wreaking havoc with landlines. Newspapers like the New York Times and magazines like Newsweek have erected pay walls to offset lost revenue from their print editions. Best Buy’s traditional bricks-and-mortar retail home electronics business has made it easier for shoppers to “squeeze the Charmin” in their stores and then order it from someone else at a lower price over the Internet. Then there’s RIM…

These are sophisticated companies. They had people working for them with the wherewithal and the budgets to see the threat coming, but they acted incorrectly, too late, or not at all. Will they be able to right their apple carts in time to minimize the damage? Were they outmanoeuvred or did they refuse to acknowledge that there even was a threat?

What do you see coming? How will it impact on your ability to earn a living, let alone advance your career? What’s your strategy for dealing with it? In light of what you’ve seen, how realistic are your expectations, your value proposition and your direction? These are the questions that drive PDD.

The conclusions you arrive at after answering those questions should tell you whether colleagues and prospective employers will perceive you as being a 21st century answer to their needs, or a 20th century answer. The Democrats and the Republicans went all out to differentiate their respective presidential candidates through “personal branding”. The good news is there was no mistaking one for the other. Which explains why the one who was perceived as relevant won—and the other lost.

In this winner-take-all world it’s one thing to have a brand that stands for your plan. Making sure that enough of the right people care is something else.

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