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> Can you teach a new dog old tricks?

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Chuck Tanzola, CPMR
The Fusion Sourcing Group Inc.
ERA Chairman of the Board
ctanzola@fusionsourcing.com

by Chuck Tanzola, CPMR

Since my last column, I can report that I have successfully traveled to and returned from the EDS Summit in Las Vegas without the burden of any further “lost my wedding ring” incidents; and am able to reflect unencumbered on the energizing experience of having been “Back to the Summit.” I’ve indeed come full circle!

We live in a world of trade-offs that exist in tension – for each side of the equation, there is a corresponding other side pulling in the opposite direction. Some examples include: leisure or work; guns or butter (for all my economist colleagues); heads or tails – the game could depend on it (that’s for you Buffalo Bills fans); old “tried and true” methods or new ways; work smarter or work harder – the choosing of one seemingly precluding the other.

In the months leading to EDS, and in fact, for seemingly much of the last two years, there has been major emphasis on the specter of a new “normal” in our industry, and the associated tensions that implies. How will we deal with work from home versus work in the office – internally and externally? How will we reconcile just in time with just in case? How do we marry advanced analytics, AI and digital marketing techniques and technologies with analog baby boomers? With reportedly low unemployment rates, record job openings and the Great Resignation, how will we find new people to replace an aging demographic? What is the best platform for customer interaction – Teams, Zoom or visitor logs? (No, that’s not the name of a new software platform as far as I know).

It has been said, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” So, as I traveled west for EDS, I found myself earnestly hoping two things: 1) That this “old dog” would come away from the summit with a new bag of tricks – new strategies and tactics for the challenges I described above to thrive in a changing, post-pandemic world; and 2) That my plane would land without incident in the 40-50 mile per hour winds reported by the pilot on our way to Las Vegas. Much to the pleasure of the 150 or so people on the plane, our pilot did well in exceeding my expectations on the second objective; but a funny thing happened during my time at EDS on the search for new strategies.

Expecting to experience a concentration on “new” things, I was surprised by the strength of the pull-back to the familiar I felt during the week. I found myself asking the question, “If you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, can you teach a new dog old tricks?” Shortly before EDS, I was privileged to be a part of a panel speaking with the members of ERA’s NEXGEN special interest group – comprised of young members of ERA. During our conversations, I was impressed by their questions and am confident they will move forward to impact our industry with many new ideas, methods and approaches. However, based on my experiences at EDS, I would remind them (and all of us) that while they look ahead, they should also remember that “Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.” On the plane, I was reading “Free, Perfect, and Now,” Rob Rodin’s story of Marshall Industries’ digital transformation in the face of turbulent and unpredictable times. While the book was written a number of years ago, besides finding the history interesting (perhaps more so because I remember much of it), I also found many parallels – albeit under different circumstances – with what is happening today, reinforcing the value of learning from history.

Over the years, the focus on relationships, person-to-person contact (belly-to-belly as contrasted with business-to-business) and local presence has been consistently acknowledged. As we move forward, the tension to juggle that with the efficiency of virtual communications methodologies will continue; and there is value in both. For me though, the importance of one-on-one, in-person, face-to-face business was reinforced and is the prime takeaway of EDS. (Speaking of juggling, did you catch the juggling act at the Digi-Key breakfast? I thoroughly enjoyed that!) Finally, with an emphasis on relationships, I close this article with a special, personal tribute to one of the “old dogs” of this industry. Congratulations on your approaching retirement Dick Neumann of Grayhill – I’m honored to have been among the many young pups you’ve influenced along the way! As always, I can be reached at ctanzola@fusionsourcing.com and welcome your comments. How was your EDS experience?

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