Anachronisms in Business

Anachronism (n) – a thing belonging or appropriate to a period other than that in which it exists, esp. a thing that is conspicuously old-fashioned.

Wandering among the wonderful historical reproductions of Williamsburg VA this week I came across this carriage lamp. It stopped me in my tracks and brought a smile to my face. The beautiful simple colonial design contrasts abruptly with the CFL bulb. I am not being critical of the wonderful staff at Williamsburg. I applaud their use of eco-friendly lighting but the image conveyed is a bit jarring.

My anachronistic moment brought to mind the number of anachronisms I see daily in corporate business offices. I wonder why fax machines even still exist. Is there a use for them that I do not know? Every time I sit in a meeting and someone pulls up a PowerPoint deck riddled with endless bullets, I feel the tug of the old. Simple text and graphic handouts are a much better way to convey critical information. And while I am on a rant, how about the insistence of some leaders on holding face-to-face meetings when virtual solutions using desktop sharing and collaborative technology reduce the time and expense needed for travel. I had a colleague tell me the other day that while the rest of the corporation has been granted flexible work days and telecommute options, her boss still wants to see “faces at desks” every day.

Not all that is new is better. But when we continue to rely on old methods and processes long after their value has diminished, we are as goofy looking as a colonial carriage lamp with a CFL bulb in it.