I’m at the Oakland Airport waiting for a flight. They’re rebuilding the terminal here to accommodate fancier and doubtless more expensive concessions. The seating area near the gate for my flight was crowded, and I was early, so I moved to a less crowded area down the hall. Twenty minutes later, I looked up and saw that the flight’s gate had been changed: I was now sitting five feet from my plane’s departure doorway. I’d been stationary; the situation had just moved in my direction.
When I was studying software development, I learned that smart developers build products not for the market as it exists at the time but for where they think the market is going to be in the future. This wisdom recalls the famous hockey saying about skating not to where the puck is but where it’s going to be.
I’ve been thinking about these ideas as I watch the news industry struggle with changes that it could have (and should have) foreseen years ago. For me, making the transition from newsprint to digital in 1995 looked like the obvious thing to do — surely that was where the puck was heading, right? What surprises me today is not that the media-industry meltdown is happening but that it has taken so long to happen.
I recently discovered the wonderful game Fluxx, which I’ve been playing with my kids. It’s a simple card game with one profound concept: the rules and goals of the game are constantly shifting; the cards you play frequently alter both the process and the winning conditions.
Fluxx is enormously fun and entirely unpredictable. It’s also, I think, excellent training for life. It’s a crash-course in flexibility and agility. It teaches you to plan for change — but also to not get too attached to your plans.
Perhaps the next time news executives gather to ponder their options they should set aside a session for a few games.