Journeys are always a great learning. If you were on a highway and if everything starts coming in your direction, it only means that you are on the wrong track and the probability of you crashing is very high!

Recently I had the chance to reflect on a very interesting term, called “Derailers”. Through this article, I am trying to summarize my research on how to decode derailers even before it arrives.

However, before I begin, I want to stress upon something which we keep hearing from our friends- “My biggest strength became the biggest weakness”. Just to quote a couple of instances – In the recent, tragic incident of the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, with a crew headed by Capt. Zaharie Ahmad Shah who had more than 18,000 hours of flying experience, his last tracked words were-“All right, good night.” This aircraft has been missing since the 8th of March and, ironically, we live in an age where satellites and technology have the capability to zoom in to the seconds hand on our watches. Technological supremacy is a strength today, but some disconnected instance can spoil the party and rock a business.

Another story is one from mythology – that of Bhasmasura and Mohini. Bhasmasura had the boon of burning anyone to ash by placing his palm on anyone’s head. He became reckless and started troubling all. Coming to the rescue of the world, Vishnu disguised himself as Mohini, charmed Bhasmasura, and invited him to dance with her. Bhasmasura followed every dance step and, in the end, placed his hand on his own head and killed himself. When there are trends, one doesn’t see derailers.

Derailers occur when disconnected things come together to create trouble. For instance, today, the industry is banking on the Cloud. The commonly cited derailers in the Cloud business are – margin, infrastructure, profit and revenue. However, those aren’t the real derailers, but are just risks. A suitable definition of risk goes like this – those events that can be generated as a result of a linear way of thinking and that can be well predicted.

Derailers are slightly different. For instance, iTerrorism (or internet terrorism) are derailers in cloud computing world. If you are self-aware, you can go with both on-premise and Cloud, just to escape from a derailer. Similarly, there are artificial boundaries getting created today. Like in the case of European Union, it has restricted usage of data and this is definitely a derailer. Another example is 3D printing. Undoubtedly, 3D printing is deriving lot of traction today. However, dropping prices, competition in the field, easily available hardware or ever-improving Android/open-source software are not the derailers. These are the end-results of a linear way of thinking. Derailers for 3D printing could be the possibility to produce a gun or a revolver or any other destructive weapon sitting at home. How the government will regulate or control the printing of such patterns is where the future lies in 3D printing.

The instances above show that derailers can be formed anywhere. On the personal front, I constantly work on what I fear my derailers are. For instance, my instinctive way of decision making, the pace at which I place trust in people and my lack of patience. Over time, my industry experience has taught me to be “patient with people, impatient with results.” My two cents on handling derailers would be work on connecting seemingly disconnected things. When you are at a sweet spot, disrupt yourself. Don’t give a chance to your biggest strength to become your biggest weakness! Decode your derailers when you can and maybe while you are waiting for your train. Have a safe, pleasant, and successful journey ahead!


Note: This article first appeared in P43, September 2014 edition of Human Capital

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