Wednesday, May 28th, 2008
the wayback machine

For some of those of a certain age, the exploits of Rocky and Bullwinkle and friends were formative elements of their upbringing. As with other cultural influences, some phrases from such sources are remembered long after the details are forgotten.

One memorable one is the instruction, “Sherman, set the WABAC machine for . . .,” spoken by Mr. Peabody (actually a dog) to Sherman, the boy he adopted. The WABAC (pronounced “wayback”) machine allowed the two to travel back in time.Wikipedia | For those interested in reminiscing, this is a useful summary and link to other sites.

The name “Wayback Machine” was cleverly adopted by a websiteThe Wayback Machine | The web crawler that supports this site combs the Internet, archiving billions of pages for future examination. that allows users to see what other websites have looked like at times in the past. (For example, here is Google’s home page over time.The Wayback Machine | It is interesting to see the evolution of this iconic emblem of our age.)

Does your organization have a WABAC machine?  How is it used?

Most of our looking backward is not very systematic.  Perhaps someone will say, “Look at this,” and show you a report from months or years ago that illuminates the state of the market or your firm’s take on a key issue at the time of publication.  (Such serendipitous discoveries occur more frequently for pack rats, whether their archive of material is made of paper or electrons.)  Often the decision making on the subject in question is illuminated by the passage of time.

Yet, if that learning amounts to “Isn’t that interesting,” it is of modest value.  Conversely, a regular look back at assumptions and decisions — a series of feedback loops, if you will — that is woven into the fabric of an organization increases its chances of success over time.