Technology Tees Off

Opinion: Golf's lessons can-and should-be applied to IT.

In 2003, I wrote one of my most popular columns, which looked at what golf has to teach the technology business. In that column, I acknowledged my pitiful golf skills but decided that—even with all my lost balls and futile swings—I could learn something from the game.

I had a chance to return to the scene of that inspiration with the Ziff Davis Enterprise crew and guests at Pebble Beach. It was also a chance to see if those 2003 lessons still held true.

Lesson 1: Adding technology without the skills to use it wont help. More technology has been applied to sports gear—and golf, in particular—than to computers, software and networking combined. But if you dont know what youre doing on the course, the super clubs youre using wont do you any good. For techies, dont run out and buy that workstation loaded with the latest programming tools unless you know the basics.

Lesson 2: You need a mentor. At Pebble, caddies are mentors: They know all about the course and are always willing to offer encouragement.

The equivalent in the technical world would be software development gurus, product development execs and the techies essential to make any company run on time and free from the viruses and worms ravaging the industry.

Problem is, this group is also the one hardest hit by layoffs, outsourcing and cost cutting. Technology products can be updated by capital investments, but the human investment may be irreplaceable. This was true in 2003, and it is even more important now as many techies tired of outsourcing and looking at retirement head out the door.


Eric Lundquist covers the World Series of IT. Click here to read more.

Lesson 3: A long walk is the best antidote for technology overload. Its great if you can take that walk in a place as scenic as Monterey, but anywhere will do. For the techie, the value of extricating yourself from e-mail, Web surfing, IM and virus defending is well worth the effort. And dont make it a partial extrication by yakking on your cell phone. Disconnecting for a few hours can make you much more effective when you hook back in.

Lesson 4: Without practice, you arent going to improve. If you only hack around the course a couple of times per year, your score will reflect that level of effort. Techies face the same challenge in keeping their skill sets up-to-date. In this era of open social networks and Google phones, this is even more true.

Lesson 5: It is only a game. At its best, golf teaches you the value of practice, the wisdom of focusing on the task at hand, and to appreciate the randomness that governs both the universe and golf swings.

Likewise, the ups and downs of the technology industry will continue. In the end, neither technology nor golf is all there is to life. Remember that. And lets see how I do in 2008.