Not a hint of blue sky

The last five years has seen a transformation in the way in which individuals, organizations and companies store their information. Where previously people relied on immediately out-of-date server rooms, now more and more information is being stored in the “cloud”, outsourcing a non-core headache to the professionals.

While the emergence of cloud computing has made life more dynamic and flexible for millions of people, there is one small corner of the business world that is less than impressed. Rick Richmond is a 45-year old ‘business guru’, who has seen his specialist area of blue-sky-thinking dwindle into nothingness.

“Before the arrival of cloud computing, life was a breeze,” he explains to HBR, “but the growth of the cloud has made things much more difficult. How am I supposed to generate disruptive business insights if I don’t have any blue sky to work with? I need a bit of sunshine, but now everything is overcast.”

His frustration is shared by other blue sky thinkers, who liken their plight to that of the record player. “We’re the old guard, doing business the way it’s meant to be, just saying wacky stuff that we think might be true” says Larry Wilkinson, a management consultant from New York. “Now they’ve taken away our blue sky, and on top of that big data is making us rely on ‘facts’ and ‘analysis’, instead of just crazy disruptive ideas. Life is tough right now.”

Meanwhile cloud computing advocates are unapologetic. “A business storm is coming,” says Cloud Evangelist Phil Sims. “And we will not rest until the entire internet is covered in cumulonimbus. The days of the blue sky thinkers are numbered”

What of other traditional business disciplines? Envelope pushers are long since extinct, driven out with by the growth of email and the concurrent death of the post. But one group of business thinkers have been resilient in the face of new technologies. “People thought that there wouldd come a time when thinking outside the box wasn’t enough,” says marketing manager and outside-the-box thinker Sally Brady. “But as soon as everyone thinks they’re outside the box, then being outside the box is suddenly the accepted wisdom. Which means you are back inside another, larger box. So outside the box thinking is here to stay.”

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