There is little doubt that we live in a culture that glorifies success in all of its forms. Whether on the news, in magazines, and even our IS courses, we constantly hear about the immense wisdoms of the various titans of the technology industry. We hear of Jeff Bezos’ disruptive vision for the future, Mark Zuckerberg’s ability to leverage culture to produce innovation, and how Elon Musk’s genius transforms not only our world of atoms but also of bits as well.
Though one can learn much from their examples, one has to be wary of over glorifying these individuals and their success. Often times, we fall prey to viewing these individuals as oracles, whose vision of technology’s place in the broader business landscape is flawless and without error. In reality, this vision of tech’s most successful businesspeople is far from the truth, as many of tech’s greatest leaders have made some seriously off-the-mark predictions about the future of technology. Here are a few examples:
Steve Ballmer on the Apple iPhone
The release of the iPhone in 2007 sent shockwaves through the consumer electronics industry. Though many people correctly viewed the Apple’s innovation as the future of mobile communication, others were quite skeptical as to whether the iPhone would gain marketshare. Among the most visible detractors was Steve Ballmer, former CEO of Microsoft, who whiffed badly on his view of the iPhone: “500 dollars? Fully subsidized? With a plan? I said that is the most expensive phone in the world. And it doesn’t appeal to business customers because it doesn’t have a keyboard. Which makes it not a very good email machine.”
Here’s a live look at Steve:
Fast forward today, Apple has sold 78 million iPhones in Q1 of 2018 alone.
Tim Maurer on Robo-Advisors
Unlike the iPhone, robo-advisors such as Wealthfront are relatively new. However, one thing is for certain in the these new products definitely have a market and are here to stay. However, just a few short years ago, these services garnered serious doubt. For example, Tim Marurer, director of personal finance at Buckingham stated in a 2015 op-ed that robo advisors “will never supplant relationships as the optimal construct” and that they don’t compete with “comprehensive wealth management”.
This projection can be nicely summarized by the following:
Three short years later, John Hancock, a company who competes within the wealth management space has invested directly in this area. Twine, as we learned last week, is an app meant to rival competitors such as Wealthfront and ThinkOrSwim. Its incredible how a prediction like Maurer’s can become out-dated so quickly.
Netflix and The DVD-By-Mail Business
Anyone who has ever taken an IS course at Boston College is most likely quite familiar with Netflix’s rise to dominance over the likes of Blockbuster. What people don’t know about is that the company’s path has not always been so clear. In an interview with NBC’s “Nightline”, Reed Hastings, former founder and CEO of Netflix, as well as Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s Chief Content Officer, offered a wildly inaccurate view of the role of DVD’s in their business model: (Jump to 5:22)
You would think that Hastings and Sarandos would have had a better forecast of the changing digital landscape. Though Netflix easily survived this wild miscalculation, their former predictions serve as an example of how leaders in tech are not always as informed as we think they are.
Each business leader mentioned above, as popular culture would contend, is incredibly smart and can offer us all tremendous insight into how one can be successful. It is also worth understanding that all of us, even the most successful, can be incredibly wrong at times. Examples such as these demonstrate that we as future leaders ourselves can never be overconfident of our firms’ respective digital maturity. At all times we must be continually seeking improvement when it comes to adapting to an increasingly digital world.