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Taking the plunge into digital technology: Are you a toe-dipper or belly-flopper?

June 7, 2017
With summer moving into full-swing, a poolside-perspective on entering new digital ventures seems timely—and fun. If you have ever spent a June afternoon watching the various ways swimmers enter the pool, you know there is a wide variety of ways for making a big splash. But have you ever noticed how similar it is to the way manufacturers enter the digital arena? Here are seven basic classifications that work for both groups, swimmingly. See if you agree.

Clingers and thinkers. These are the reluctant participants, the ones who are slow to let go of their beach towels, preferring to stay close to the ladder, clinging to the side with white knuckles that are slippery from multiple layers of sunscreen liberally applied. They can be young or old, male or female, pool veterans or first-timers. What they all have in common, though, is a deeply thoughtful, considered, analytical expression. Their face, often with furrowed brow, says they have pondered the future to the point of paralysis. Perhaps they fixate on what can go wrong or worry about unforeseen dangers. You know the type. You may be one yourself. On the side of the pool, they tend to sit out, hiding under an oversized hat, missing the fun. In the manufacturing world, they tend to be left behind, missing opportunities.

Toe dippers. These are the people at the pool who are the most fun to watch, not because of what they do, but because of what they don’t do—and the excuses. They never seem to get in the water. It’s too hot or too cold. But there are plenty of squeals, screams, shudders and shivers, groans and warnings to nearby friends, “Don’t you dare get me wet.” In the pool, they are funny. In the manufacturing industry, the nervous naysayers can be a distraction, getting in the way of those who want to move forward. They can create false assumptions from inadequate data. The loud protests can be alarming and disheartening to those who are trying to make meaningful progress. Like one toe-dipped into the pool, a short-lived trial is insufficient to reach conclusions. If you are toe-dipper or work for one, take another try.

Eyes closed leapers. While closing your eyes and simply leaping off the edge is a classic way to make a big splash, it isn’t always wise. At the pool, the bold leapers may be showing off their blind faith, their confidence in their abilities, or a commitment to plunge in all the way with no hesitation. Or, they could just as easily be hiding their fears. Manufacturers sometimes blindly plunge into new endeavors with the same kind of gusto. Does it mean they are confident? Or, covering up uncertainty? In either case, a limited view is just plain dangerous. Open your eyes. Watch out.

Belly floppers. Do you admire those carefree sorts who love to splash out half of the pool water or hate them? First, their adrenaline-pumping run and plop maneuver is good for getting the cardiac juices flowing. But the sudden, loud splat and giant wave that disrupts the entire pool can be annoying, startling, even hilarious. In the manufacturing industry, belly floppers are abundant. Start-ups emerge from nowhere, stealing market share. New technologies hit the scene with a loud wake up slap. Innovative products make a big splash, forcing competitors to ride out the waves. A smart swimmer remains alert, watchful, ready to take cover.

Floaters and drifters. Floating in circles with a lack of direction may be relaxing to some. But it also brings some underlying risks. In the pool, the risk is sunburn. In the manufacturing industry, drifting into a digital initiative with no clear goal or purpose means likely failure. You will be disappointed or might even take some unnecessary risks.

Canon ball runners. This group has put some practice and strategy into their approach, and therefore, wins the title of the most efficient way to get into the pool. A carefully aimed cannon ball plunge, knees tucked to the chest, also shows some targeted aim, thoughtful precautions, and maintains a respectful splash-ratio that does not threaten poolside peace. A well placed cannonball can also shoo away those casual drifters and causes onlookers to take notice. In the digital world, a cannon ball would be much like a strategic initiative that aims at one specific goal and takes necessary steps to reach the speed and momentum necessary. There’s a splash, but not one that is totally disruptive to the other swimmers and makes the lifeguard blow a whistle

Which type are you? If you haven’t taken the plunge and entered into a digital transition yet, it’s time to dive in, one way or another. Most of all, you don’t want to be left out.

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