The Most Influential People Follow Their Own Paths
As I see it, there are two ways to become a top influencer in any industry. One way is to be able to peer ahead, consider the trends specific to your industry as well as those in the social, technology, business and political climate, and create a product or service aligned with those trends.
This is not easy and requires you to have a grand world vision. And if you are only a little off, say by a couple of decades, you may not be around to see your vision justified by universal accolade. I'm talking Galileo here.
The second way is to put your head down, solve a problem that is in front of you now and figure that if you've solved it sufficiently well in some universal manner, you'll be noticed by a wider world. I'm talking here about Tim Berners-Lee, who, in trying to find a simple way to share scientific papers, was instrumental in creating the World Wide Web.
So which way should you start driving if you have a desire to make the Top 100 Most Influential IT People list next year or next decade?
There are certainly trends we can all see now. The standardization of hardware and software is only accelerating. Clearly, standards provide a broad base that favors quick adoption and starts the creative cycle moving ahead once again. Mobility and ubiquitous connectivity are becoming the norm rather than the province of the well-heeled business traveler. Security has become a factor in allowing or denying fast growth for companies and countries.
Technology expertise has become a global resource instead of the province of a few rich nations. And, more recently, green computing has made its appearance as we realize the world will have to pay for wanton disregard for not just natural resources but computing resources also.
Anyone who is well-read could come up with those trends. Rather, what are the new technology models that will incorporate all those trends? What are the trends that are less obvious now but will be vitally important 10 or 15 years from now that I have missed? That is your job to figure out if you want to leave a legacy as a major technology influencer.
Bill Gates figured out that distributed personal computing would be a big deal, and even though his subsequent guesses were late or, sometimes, just wrong, one big guess on one big trend was sufficient to make him the richest person in the world.
And what about those head-down, single-minded bets? Where is the next World Wide Web or the next cellular telephone network or the next Google or Skype? Those bets are in the minds of really good daydreamers because, first of all, you need the idea, and they're the ones with the ideas.
Of course the idea itself is not enough; you also need the determination to make the idea a reality. And then you might have to wait for some time before that reality is seen for the great product it eventually becomes. However, if it is, indeed, the journey rather than the final destination that makes careers and life worthwhile, it doesn't matter if your invention is recognized during your lifetime or not.
This list includes a whole range of influencers. There are those who worked in large corporate environments and those conducting a solitary pursuit. There are those who had a business goal from the outset and those who had nary a thought about business but simply wanted to create something great.
There are those who are part of the vendor community, those who are part of academia and those who are working within corporations. If you have suggestions for who should be on our next Top 100 Most Influential IT People list, send them to me.
If you think you should be on that list, I'd advise you to keep working diligently toward the goal you have in mind.
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