2001: An Enterprise Odyssey

The Discovery from 2001When I was at the AIIM Conference this year, Thornton May, gave a frenetic keynote address. While I am never quite sure what the key point Thornton is trying to make during his talks, he always makes everyone in the audience think, which is a very good thing.

During his keynote this year, Thornton used the following exercise to get the audience thinking about the future.

Choose movie, show, or work of literature which comes closest to capturing the essence of the external environment facing your enterprise today.

There were a lot of answers, some good, some mired in the past, but it was a very thought provoking discussion. My choice, if you haven’t figured it out by now, was 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Looking at the Movie

If you aren’t familiar with 2001, go watch it. Seriously. It is a great movie. The music is beautiful and except potentially for the final climatic sequence, it is wonderfully paced. It is something to just take-in and enjoy. The book is quite good as well and enjoying one does not preclude enjoying the other.

The Monolith on EarthTo summarize the relevant parts without giving too much away, an artifact is found on the moon that is clearly not put there by humans. It appears very advanced and it sends a signal to Jupiter. 18 months later, the ship Discovery is on the way to Jupiter with two command staff and three mission specialists.

The staff, Dave Bowman and Frank Poole, are unaware of the transmission or that the real mission is to investigate the transmission. The computer HAL knows the real mission. The latter part of the movie focuses on Dave and Frank fighting to learn the truth, discovering what was on the other end of that transmission, and finding out what it means for humankind.

Great stuff. Now how does that relate to the Enterprise today?

Our Journey

Right now, we are onboard Discovery. Most organizations are the command staff, moving forward on a mission of exploration. They see exciting innovations everyday but are focused on just making sure that things done. They see signs that portend of greater things, but they aren’t sure what that means for their mission.

David BowmanSome are aware in depth of the things that are happening, like the mission specialists and HAL, but they don’t really know what the future holds. They all like to think the future will hold great improvements in how work is done. They tell people about the next great thing, but it is supposition based upon the great potential we see.

There is an exciting future out there, but we don’t know for sure what it is going to look like when we arrive. Anyone who says they do is either lying or from the future.

We are on a journey of discovery. We have to get the work done, but we need to keep looking ahead and be ready. When all the promise becomes a practical reality, we all need to be ready to jump on-board.

What is your answer?

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