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Critical Thinking WTF

It’s fun to watch the changes that technology has had on modern vocabulary. There are so many different ways to express oneself through cheeky sophisticated brevity. From the challenge to hashtag as many words as possible in one tweet to those fun acronyms that evolved from texting on 10 key dial pads (if anyone remembers those), LOL.

I have the most excellent privilege of being just the right age to have seen many of today’s modern technologies from toddlers through adolescence. I remember when the FAX machine was ‘amazing’. I saw the birth of the compact laser disk. Instead of multi-gigabyte usb thumb-drives I carried my data around on 1.44MB floppy disks when in high school.

A benefit of watching all this technology evolve is being able to observe problems, their solutions and the new problems created by the new solutions. This process seems natural to all human progress especially with electronic and digital technology. For example, I used to create reports for school using WordPerfect for DOS. It did everything my nifty Brother typewriter could ever do and more. It had a plethora of features, more than I’d ever use.

Fast forward to Microsoft Word, a software product I’ve used since version 1.0. MS-Word is truly amazing with what seems like exponentially more features than its predecessors. Every few versions we get to experience some new UI metaphor, or rediscover the new menus and panels that conceal our familiar functions needed to do our tasks. We even get to learn new names for former functions that do the same things but are called by some other improved moniker.

This of course is only one small example of the change of software over a relatively short time. With all of the ability for software vendors to introduce change and market their changes to prospects and customers I believe we’ve exceeded even the best human’s ability to keep up. After enduring a quantity of this experiences the change can become exhausting to keep up with and you may find yourself asking, WTF?

Now, for those of you familiar with the WTF acronym, I’d like to offer you a substitute definition.

WTF=What’s That For?

So the customary definition certainly has its use and merit and while emotionally justified to ask WTF? We could perhaps then follow that with an intellectual inquiry: What’s That For?

Asking ‘What’s That For?’ is an aspect of Critical Thinking. Critical Thinking seems to be a lost art these days in marketing, advertising and business development activity especially the prospect and customer facing parts. The industry today is producing so much change, so many choices and so much noise that it is largely impossible for the target to stop and ask, what’s that for?

Sometimes I ponder if the industry knows this and is relying on overwhelming the prospect to a point where she looses her ability to harness any rationality and make an emotional decision. While this is absolutely true in consumer products, of which many software and gadgets are, it seems out of place in business products and capital goods marketing.

Just a few weeks ago I was having a conversation with a representative of a company that offers a “Cloud Orchestration” product. Part of the pitch was “you can run workloads on AWS, Google and VMware and move the workloads around as you need to automatically”. Being partly silly and partly serious I asked “Why would I want to do that?” and “What the hell do I need so many clouds for?”

This line of questioning is apparently unusual. If you follow the marketing of cloud oriented companies (of which everyone who is anyone is) then “the Cloud” is now axiomatically good. Of course you can’t have too much of a good thing now can you? LOL.

This is where Critical Thinking can come to your aid as a business prospect and a business customer. There are some steps you can take to help you improve your critical thinking as it relates to your business. Here’s a few.

First, an organization must have deep intimate knowledge of its critical businesses data. What information is critical to operations? Where is that data? What business processes depend on that data?

Next, an organization must have an understanding of the applications and technology that interact with that data as well as the person roles that interact with those applications.

Additionally, an organization must have a risk profile associated with the data, the applications and the users of the applications to ensure the right data is accessible in the right ways by the right people.

Using this information, an organization can create a model of its information assets, the internal and external flows of the information, the business process linkage to the information and the roles in the organization that effect the processes.

Now, this model does not have to be perfect but, the more accurate it is the more useful it will be to a business trying to make decisions about technology products and services. This model is what helps you answer ‘What’s that for?’ when assessing new technology.

With the model in hand, you can now help your bright eyed smiling technology sales partner communicate to you more clearly. The question can now become “Where in this model does your product/service impact my business and how?”

If you’re lucky, your partner will have a thoughtful and well articulated response that takes you right to the heart of their value proposition to your organization.

If you’re unlucky the response will be “wtf?”. The old one, not the new one. Then you’ll know what to do next. OMG! 🙂