Time magazine recently released its list of the 50 most influential gadgets. After what they termed “deliberations at (extreme) length”, Time editors compiled a list of technology that has changed how people interact with the world.

I tried to guess some of the items that were on there before I looked at the list, and found several of my choices there (Polaroid camera, iPhone, IBM Selectric Typewriter, Sony Walkman, iPod, iPad, Blackberry and Atari game system). I shook my head knowingly with several other nominees that I just didn’t think of (Fitbit, Victrola record player, Sony Trinitron color television, Nest thermostat). But there were many others that I would have not included on my list, more likely because they have yet to influence my world (Google Glass, Makerbot Replicator 3D printer, Oculus Rift virtual reality headset).

Overall, it was a fun read and it brought home that for many of these gadgets, the impact is not felt for years. Who knew when the first Jerrold Cable Box came out in the 1950s that cable television would have the reach it does today? Or when Phillips released its first VCR in 1972 to lackluster response due to cost, that by 1980 most homes would have one? 

Looking at lists such as this is a good way to put things in perspective. If we just focus on what we have today — in gadgets or in our organization — it is easy to lose sight of just how far we have come. The iPhone built on technology from Nokia and other devices; it did not come out of nowhere. The same is true in organizations: if we are effective, where we are today is an evolution from other incremental successes in the past.

Take a stroll down memory lane with the gadget list, and do the same in your organization. What are the 50 (or 10 or 25) most influential items in your history? I’ll bet you see themes that connect the present to the future and the past, even if they are now connected by the cloud instead of by cables and wires.

beth triplett

The 50 Most Influential Gadgets of All Time, Time, May 3, 2016

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