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A First Time for Everything

Posted By Katherine Burns, June 20, 2012 at 9:00 AM, in Category:

Well, it’s my first blog. Not just my first one for Frost & Sullivan – my first blog ever. As a professional writer, and professional communicator, I guess this means I’m somewhat old-fashioned. I’d rather write something longhand than type it, and I wish we’d all put the Postal Service back in business by sending each other some letters. (Remember letters? No “you’ve got mail” ding, dong, ping, or gong could ever be better than the silent anticipation of opening an envelope).

Anyway, I’m old-fashioned in most aspects of my life. I love old movies. I love old music. A few weeks ago my husband asked me to name a famous Grunge band, and the best I could do was Aerosmith (apparently they are NOT “Grunge”). Somehow this makes me eccentric, whereas the fact that he couldn’t tell me the difference between Ella Fitzgerald and Julie London just means he’s cool. Whatever.

And so I’ve skipped through life, mostly paying homage to things that happened before I was born, and all to a Cole Porter soundtrack. I’ve watched Singing in the Rain more times than I could count; I’ve memorized all of Fred Astaire’s movies. I’ve devoured books on the Golden Age of Hollywood. Mid-20th Century detective stories are my vice (I’ve read them all, but Nero Wolfe’s brownstone is my absolute ideal…and if that doesn’t mean anything to you, do yourself a favor and pick up Some Buried Caesar, or maybe Champagne for One).

Speaking of mid-20th Century detective stories: One of the lovely things about them is the way the detecting is done. There’s no scanning of Twitter pages, no research of Facebook posts. The hero might read back issues of the New York Times, or he might pay a trip to the library. He might even go really high-tech and type something, on a really snazzy machine like an Underwood. In all, a decidedly low-tech (but always successful) way of arriving at whodunit.

Imagine my anxiety, then, when I was asked to write about technology. Not the technology of yesteryear—but the technology of tomorrow! Technology that hasn’t even happened yet, and how we can predict it and prepare for it! Did I mention I’ve barely started to blog? As I like to remind my boss, I have only to look at a computer to fry its insides past the point of hope or redemption.

Perhaps I should explain why I was so chosen. I’m responsible for writing a series of Growth Team Membership deliverables called the Growth Process Toolkits. These toolkits are essentially primers – how-to-manuals—on key topics that drive a company’s top-line growth. For example, we’ve published toolkits on M&A, new product launch, distribution channel optimization, and more. We needed to write a toolkit on technology strategy, and as the author of the series, the responsibility fell to me. I was, as I said, somewhat hesitant to begin. What could I possibly teach on this subject, when I was so ill-informed myself?

And then I realized two lovely things all at once:

I’m not the only one who’s overwhelmed by the rapid, nearly disorienting pace of technology evolution today. It’s OK to acknowledge this feeling, and to empathize with others who may also be struggling to make sense of the chaos. That’s why I decided to open the toolkit with a quotation from historian Henry Adams (for you history buffs out there, Mr. Adams was a direct descent of John, who was his great-grandfather). I came across this passage while reading David McCullough’s wonderful new book The Greater Journey: “Every day opens new horizons and the rate we are going gets faster and faster till my head spins and I hang on to the straps and shut my eyes.” He wrote those words in 1900 – but how apt they seem today! Maybe not everyone reading this would self-describe as “old-fashioned,” the way I have, but I think everyone can relate to that sentiment and sometimes feels powerless to keep up with…well, anything today. We live in a crazy time. That’s probably why we need a toolkit on technology strategy in the first place. And that leads me to my second realization:

The ideas don’t have to be mine; I just have to present them clearly. One of the great things about my job, and about writing these toolkits, is that it’s made easier by working with extremely smart people. I may not know a lot about technology, but I know who in our company does, and I know how to seek them out, ask them questions, and see how they’ve helped others think through technology-related challenges. All I have to do is collect the goods and translate them into a single, cohesive story. I might not be good at blogging (am I?), but I can certainly do that.

And so there was no need for trepidation—and in fact, this was a good chance for me to learn about something that I’ve avoided, perhaps to my detriment, for a very long time. I’m happy to say that the production of this new toolkit has been a learning experience for me; I hope reading it will be one for you as well.

That last sentence probably makes it sound like the toolkit is finished. It’s not. But it will be soon, and we’ll share it with you as soon as it is. Check back in with us next month, and we’ll provide some more detail on it (that, and my favorite detective stories).

Until then, happy computing.

Katherine Burns

Katherine is the Director of Strategic Communications for Growth Team Membership, a premier best practices research group within Frost & Sullivan.

Written by Katherine Burns

Katherine is the Director of Strategic Communications for Growth Team Membership, a premier best practices research group within Frost & Sullivan.

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