The rapid rate at which technology is changing our lives has become so fast-paced that to call it mind-boggling is simply to utter a cliché. I think of the things that were cutting-edge products and ways of doing business early in my career and then contrast those with common practices today. Then I think hard about my children who are all now old enough to be entering or already in the early stages of having entered the world of work. What changes will they see in the course of their careers? Or more appropriately, will the career they enter today even exist when they become the age I am today?
What’s new is old
When I translate these thoughts to the woodworking industry, I first think of some pictures I saw recently promoting an auction of a sizable cabinet manufacturer that had gone out of business. I was struck by some of the most sophisticated CNC equipment listed in the auction and how old and out-of-date it looked by today’s standards. This was equipment that was probably scarcely 10 years old. But 10 years is a long time today.
There certainly are viable woodworking businesses out there that eschew modern technology and make products much as they were made 50 or even 100 years ago. But those businesses have become an anachronism. They are boutique businesses that trade on their differences to the point of being a museum for things long past. Heck, some of them ARE connected to museums!
As for the more typically viable woodworking businesses, the days of bragging about using antique or soon-to-be-antique equipment are gone. Computers are indispensable in the shop, in the office, and even on our hips or in our ears, as the mobile revolution continues. In the time it takes someone to earn a college degree, the technology has likely spawned yet another generation.
Training for change
So, how does one train for this kind of change? How can anyone keep up? How can a business, particularly a woodworking business, learn to continually adapt in such an unsettled climate?
My only answer is that you absolutely cannot stand still. Doing things the same way you’ve always done them is comfortable and might seem efficient, but in today’s world, that’s likely to put you at the back of an increasingly competitive pack. Once you’ve recognized that you must adapt, the next task becomes figuring out what new methods are worthwhile. Not every new thing is a good thing.
The only way to sort all of this out is by obtaining as much good information as possible to decide what direction to take. I’m looking forward to our CabinetMakerFDM Woodworking Business E-vent on November 18 because it not only will provide a great opportunity for networking and learning, but it also represents the kind of paradigm shift that drives our world. You can learn more at www.wattevents.com. Who would have thought 10 years ago that you could attend a full-service trade show without leaving your office? And perhaps 10 years from now, we’ll look back and laugh at how primitive this technology is. More than likely the processes and practices of this industry will have dramatically changed. I can’t predict those changes, but I am certain that today’s paradigm will be dust sooner than any of us think. All aboard! The next paradigm is leaving the station!
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