The Problem of the Past and the Future

A colleague went to a professional conference recently and came away with these quotable quotes from various presenters:

“The problem is not how to get new ideas in your mind but old ones out.”

“Investments from the past become barriers to the future.”

“Don’t forget your loyal customers.”

“Most innovations fail–plan an exit strategy.”

As my colleague pointed out, the first two aphorisms seem to say the opposite of the last two.

The first two say–out with the old and in with the new. We can be encumbered by past programs, infrastructure or image, inhibiting us from moving nimbly in a fast-changing environment.

The second two say–the new isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be. You are in danger of losing your core customers and gutting the strength of your business if you move too far, too fast in new directions. And remember, it takes nine bad ideas to get one good one.

So what are we to make of that? Which is right? The old or the new? Not surprisingly, it’s both. Change is absolutely essential. No business can continue indefinitely doing what it’s done in the past–and survive. But changing too quickly and too radically can be costly (because most innovations fail) and can cause you to lose the base market you count on. So the trick is to change (and always be changing) while continuing to adhere to your core values.

As I’ve written before, we must innovate. But how do we choose among many possible new ideas when we can only implement some? One set of questions (among others) to ask is, does this new process, procedure, structure or product fit us as a firm? Is it consistent with, or a logical extension of, our values, ethos and history?

The new is necessary. But too much new too fast can be unnecessarily risky.

Author: Andy Le Peau

I've been an editor and writer for over forty years. I am passionate about ideas and how we can express them clearly, beautifully, and persuasively. I love reading good books, talking about them, and recommending them. I thoroughly enjoy my family who help me continue on the path of a lifelong learner.

One thought on “The Problem of the Past and the Future”

  1. I really liked what I have read on the new and old statements it was encouraging to my soul.knowledge is good so I’d like to know more

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