Technology Management and The Gilligan's Island Syndrome

Worried About Making the Right Technology Decision?

The goal of writing the "Beyond Great Ideas and Good Intentions" series of successful business management lessons was to look at the mindset that creates success and relate them to my personal experiences. I also have many first-hand stories to tell of people who could not get beyond the mindsets that lead to failure. One of those mindsets of failure is something I have named the Gilligan's Island Syndrome.

The premise of the 1960's television sitcom "Gilligan's Island" is a charter boat is on a "three-hour tour" and runs into a tropical storm and gets shipwrecked on an uncharted island somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. What was meant to be a "three-hour tour" turns into a life long adventure.

Working with many small to medium-sized businesses over the years I assisted many start-ups as well as family-owned businesses in general business planning as well as the implementation of various types of technology.

In the business world, many companies suffer from "The Gilligan's Island Syndrome." That is when a decision that should take three hours, turns into a life long adventure. The "Gilligan's Island" television sitcom was a funny show and was of course, fictional. I could tell the story from first-hand experiences of many businesses where "The Gilligan's Island Syndrome" is very real, and very sad.

Setting realistic expectations

Many things we do in life are based on basic assumptions of what is considered normal and customary. When we drive, we assume the car coming at us will stay in their lane of the highway, and won't swerve into our lane and crash into us. We do not need to research highway safety each morning before we leave for work to assess the dangers of driving. We just need a realistic expectation of the dangers of highway driving, make sure our car insurance is paid, and understand defensive driving. Setting realistic expectations in many cases is understanding the balance between hoping for the best and preparing for the worst.

In the world of business and technology, open-source projects, such as Wikipedia are based on the fundamental principle of "assume good faith." Wikipedia states the importance of the principal as follows, "In letting anyone edit, we must believe that most people who work on the project are trying to help it, not hurt it. If this was not true, a project like Wikipedia would not work.

The term "good faith" is applied to all kinds of transactions. It can be difficult at times separating the people who act in "good faith" and are good at their profession, from the snake oil salesmen and the self-proclaimed experts. The internet is full of masters in some areas of technology simply because they use the proper buzzword to describe some products or features. Success in business is finding someone you can trust, someone who understands your needs and your situation.

Accept basic assumptions

Once you find that person or company you feel you can trust and understands your situation, be willing to have an open mind to new ideas and suggestions. As a service technician or technology consultant representing a service provider, there is nothing more frustrating than clients who ask for help but refuse to accept advice you have to offer.

I have worked on both sides of the fence, as a service technician and technology consultant representing a service provider, as well as a technology specialist and systems administrator servicing a network. People think that what they need, or what they are trying to do, is so unique, that they need a special application or a special tool to accomplish their task. That is seldom the case.

Unless I have reason to believe otherwise, I start from the basic assumption that someone is acting in good faith. Keep in mind that these remarks are coming from someone who is often called cynical. I have always lived by the philosophy that I would rather have you be mad at me for walking away from something, rather than be mad at me for making a promise I know I can't keep.

The best answer to your situation is not always the answer you want to hear. It is natural to get angry at others when they make an assumption that results in your inconvenience but accept basic assumptions of time and money needed to complete a task or a project. When you have to make a decision, keep your goals, as well as your deadlines, in perspective.

The Gilligan's Island Syndrome is when a decision that should take three hours, turns into a life long adventure. In the 1960s television show, the castaways were shipwrecked on an island, and could not return to civilization. Don't shipwreck your business by turning every decision into a life long adventure.

The refusal to accept a basic premise and the obsession to gather more data beyond a reasonable means leads to various states of mental anguish.

Paralysis by Analysis

A mental affliction that sometimes develops in an individual after prolonged exposure to the "The Gilligan's Island Syndrome" is "Paralysis by Analysis." This affliction is characterized by the constant need for information in any and all decision-making.

Sadly enough "Paralysis by Analysis" becomes the negative mechanism for justifying no action being taken, under the misguided philosophy that you can't make a wrong decision if you make no decision.

There's a big difference between going with the flow and being too paralyzed to go anywhere. True leadership is about being decisive, coming up with a firm decision, and sticking with it.

Waiting for just the right time

At this point in the conversation, some people will say, yes, they understand the need to be decisive, but they are worried about making the right technology decision. They are always looking for the right time to buy technology, and for them, now is never the right time. They worry that price drops are just around the corner. They worry that new technology will make their new tools obsolete too soon.

Technology is a fast-paced business, price drops are always around the corner, and new tools that make your purchase obsolete are inevitable. Don't let the fear of making a bad decision slow you down, or prevent you from making any decision.

Time is more valuable than money, use it wisely.

From working in the business world as well as from the realms of schools and government, I have many personal stories I could tell of The Gilligan's Island Syndrome and Paralysis by Analysis. Many times the over-analysis is done in the name of saving money, a person is tasked with spending days to find the lowest of a product or service. Even if you forget for a minute that the lowest purchase cost is not always the best value over time, how can you justify a significant amount of time used to analyze a purchase to save a few dollars?

Once a minute is wasted, there is no way to get it back, no one to borrow it from.

Don't allow simple decisions to turn in to life-long adventures.

True leaders make decisions quickly and effectively.


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Tom Peracchio is not a university professor with a team of editors and advisers. He is one man who loves technology and history and tells stories to increase awareness, educate, and entertain. Support the efforts of Tom in developing the Guru 42 Universe by your small donation here at Buy me a coffee.

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