There have always been ages of great technological growth throughout history—the Bronze, Iron, and Industrial Ages, to name three—but the common thread running through all of them is knowledge.
Even during times of gold rushes, some people went crazy with “gold fever” and lost everything. Other people saw the technology behind the gold, making fortunes by selling shovels and pumps to the gold diggers. This exemplifies the old “work smarter, not harder” adage. Each age has had its winners and losers, and if you take a note from history, you notice patterns.
First, notice the rabbits and the tortoises: If you take a second to look at the big picture, you can see levels of the process. Focusing on a foundation or base of the technology will provide a stable base to build a company on. These base technologies are often not quick to change. Technology companies often have to be the first or fastest to market, but this often leads to high-risk/reward situations. Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with following this path, but if you’re going to do so, you had better be ready for the ride.
Focusing on the bigger picture is how John D. Rockefeller started on his path to wealth. Just like the Gold Rush, Rockefeller saw that digging was expensive and largely a game of luck. Therefore, he started a refinery to process the black crude into standard, user-friendly oil. He hired smart people to work hard for him. Scientist and engineers allowed Rockefeller to keep a seemly impossible promise to Vanderbilt that every train he wanted filled with oil would be.
Later, Rockefeller’s engineers would help design and install the first oil pipeline. This would help the now-called Standard Oil maintain a low cost, helping to secure its monopoly. Many of these accomplishments were because of knowledge, and executives’ ability to exploit it. However, how does this relate today?
From the Gold Rush, or Rushes, the tortoise takes a second to think about the underlying issues, what knowledge is needed for a solution, and what technology will make it happen—i.e., how to design and sell a better mousetrap. The most important lesson gleaned from taking a tortoise-like strategy is that it is continuously moving. Don’t stop and think, move consciously and think. For example, when investing in the Industrial IoT (IIoT), it might bring a foundation of necessary data to show you the bigger picture…or you might have just blown a lot of money to dig through a mountain of data to find there was no gold.
From Rockefeller we can learn that having multiple suppliers rather than one is the difference between getting lucky and having steady ground to work and grow. Perhaps this is why so many IIoT service providers are popping up. But once on top, Rockefeller knew depending on one distributor also would not work. Today, technologies such as additive manufacturing might alleviate long lead times and single providers of specific parts to help diversify supply chains.
Ultimately, history teaches us much about how to win: You need knowledge, and you need to understand how to apply it. Winners have always understood this.
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