The movie, ďBack To The FutureĒ featured a time machine (car) that allowed
Marty (Michael J. Fox) to go back in time changing what had already occurred, and going
ahead in time, learning about something that has not yet occurred. H.G. Wells in his
classic ďThe Time MachineĒ also depicted time travel, as do many of the science fiction
Putting magic and the Einsteinís theory of general relativity aside, we all
know that time travel is not possible Ö at least in todayís world. You canít travel into the
future, and then return to the present knowing about something that hasnít yet happened Ö
OR CAN YOU?
A few months ago, I was listening to an XM radio station, and the D.J. was
babbling along, when I heard him say what I thought was utterly profound. He said, ďYour
car is a time machine, because you can get to a destination before someone who is
walkingĒ. He then played another song. I turned the radio off and started to think about
that statement and the definition of a Time Machine. Hereís one definition:
ē A mechanism that allows you to know something about the future and use that
knowledge in the present.
ē A mechanism that allows you to change something about the past, that results in a
change in the present.
While Marty physically went into the past and the future to accomplish these things, was
that the only way? What about what that radio announcer said?
Letís say itís the year 1928. Unbeknownst to your neighbors, you just got a car.
Normally itís a full day walk to town, but your car can make it there and back in 2 hours.
You and your tech friends are all excited about going to the electronics show the next day
to see the lasted radioís and the new fangled device called an electric razor from some
guy named Schick. You decide to leave in your car early that next morning and check out
the razor and are back before your friends start their journey on foot. You say to your
friends, ďOMG, wait till you see this razor Ö itís a little noisy, but no more dull blades!Ē
Your friends are perplexed. How could you possibly know this, before the group even gets
Fast forward to 2014. We discover information at the speed of light. If you have
access to the Internet and someone else does not, then you can discover information
about something before them, and as a result, you know the future before them. If you
know the future before them, you can take some action related to that future before them,
and this gives you an advantage. Time Machine?
Now what about the workplace? What is it that allows you to know the future
before it happens. What about a forecast? Isnít that a tool to know the future? If you can
forecast something that no one else can, or you can do it more accurately, and then take
actions related to that forecast, isnít that the same as if you had a time machine and new
the future before others did, and used that knowledge to change the present?
What other work related tasks might be considered a time machine? A
project plan? A financial model? A conversation with a customer about their intentions?
Imagine if you can identify all the time machines you have and refined them to be a really
good time machines. You could have a significant advantage over others whose time
machines donít exist or are less accurate. You would have more confidence in the future;
you would make better decisions about what to do now in order to take advantage of the
future. Your time machine becomes a weapon to compete!
Some time machines are illegal. Insider trading for example. Someone knows
about something thatís going to occur in the future and takes action that financially benefits
them over others with that knowledge. The SEC, and other shareholders, donít like that
What about changing the past, and by doing that, you change the present.
Well .. the past is the past .. Or is it? What if you bought something online? Itís an hour
later and you change your mind. You can get on the internet and cancel the order. Didnít
you just modify an action you took in past that changes the future? Where in your work can
you do this? Ever download a patch to your operating system on your PC, or Mac, or
smartphone? Isnít that changing the operating system that was installed in the past, so
that it modifies how the present works? Is a software update a time machine? What
about an historian who, by knowing about the past, doesnít do something, and avoids a
bad outcome in the present or future? If they have this knowledge and you do not, they can
avoid a mistake, while you might not. Isnít that a mechanism of a Time Machine?