Thought for the day: Let others learn from your mistakes

Passing on experience and knowledge will help the next generation of IT directors, says Colin Beveridge.

Colin Beveridge  

Passing on experience and knowledge will help the next generation of IT directors, says Colin Beveridge.





One of my favourite debating points at the moment is the question of how we can effectively transmit the perceived wisdom and hard-won practical experience from generation to generation of IT managers and directors.

Why does such a body of highly intelligent people, allegedly renowned for their logical and systematic approach to problems, find it quite so difficult to establish a co-ordinated approach to establishing a sustainable and cumulative pool of best practice and lessons learned?

This conundrum has taxed me for some time because I still can’t see any substantive evidence of a general willingness to build on the understanding of those who have gone before us – at least in the business-critical realms of IT management and organisational development.

It seems that each new generation of IT managers is fated to repeat the mistakes of their forbears, ad infinitum, at great cost to the individuals concerned and to their employers.

It’s almost as if we enjoy playing out the role of the headstrong, self-willed, eternal teenager, who won’t listen to advice and who doesn’t want to grow up. Ever.

Harsh words? Perhaps. But all too often true.

Often the behaviour is a simple consequence of not knowing where to find a readily available fount of relevant IT management wisdom.

For sure, it is easy enough to find technical reference material by the bucket load. But it’s very hard to find a simple, practical guide to common IT management problems - and even harder to find such a guide that is widely recognised by practitioners as the standard reference.

Whereas, when lawyers and doctors are faced with a problem beyond their personal knowledge and experience, they have rapid recourse to whole libraries of precedent and advice, all properly indexed and neatly cross-referenced. This is one of the reasons why those more mature and august professional bodies are usually better positioned to command and sustain a much higher level of personal and corporate credibility than those of us wallowing around in the mire of IT management.

We certainly have a lot of catching up to do if we are ever to realise our own professional aspirations, such as our aspirations of IT genuinely being regarded as a profession rather than merely an extended cottage industry.

This catching-up exercise will not be easy and will take some time to bear fruit.

In the meantime, the cost of neglect will continue to hamper our professional development.

Isn’t it high time, therefore, that we got ourselves better organised and properly equipped to manage technology and technicians?

So, let’s all agree now that we want to stop making life harder for ourselves than it should be.

Let’s start sharing our experience within a properly structured framework. That must be the best way for us to pass on those sparkling pearls of wisdom and to break the endless, costly cycle of always finding things out for ourselves the hard way.

Surely it’s long overdue for the multifarious IT membership associations and the so-called professional bodies to start working together, to really create a systematic and sustainable professional approach to managing technology.

Of course, this might require a lot of people within those organisations to move beyond their well-established comfort zones of competition and isolationism, into that apparently dangerous minefield of co-operation, collaboration and consolidation.

What do you think?

Would a fount of all IT knowledge help you? What form should it take? Tell us in an e-mail >> reserves the right to edit and publish answers on the website. Please state if your answer is not for publication.

Colin Beveridge is an independent consultant and leading commentator on technology management issues. He can be contacted at

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