If It’s Not Broken

by | Nov 2, 2020

I often use the fax machine as a metaphor for an industry organisation that continues on with an outdated business model because it’s not broken. The mindset is more pervasive than we like to believe.

Japan’s new Minister for Administrative Reform, Taro Kono, recently announced he is waging war on emblems of national bureaucratic red tape — first hanko personal seals and now the fax machine. 

It seems that people need to print out paper so that it can be stamped with their personal seal. Apparently, more than 95% of Japanese businesses still use fax machines today.

Recently, the rate of digital transformation has probably achieved more change in seven months than has happened in seven years. The unwillingness to use new technology is more about the people.

We just choose not to change old habits. 

There is a whole generation of adults who have never seen a fax machine and wouldn’t know how to use one. They certainly wouldn’t buy one.

I believe that most young professionals in any industry look at the ancient committee structures of traditional industry organisations and see fax machines. They don’t buy into them. 

The leadership of those same industry organisations lament that young people don’t show an interest in joining. Their solutions are to paint younger generations as apathetic and to call more stridently for them to join up. A fax machine sale!

I mean, how dare young people see traditional industry organisations and their formal committees as relics that are old fashioned, inefficient, slow, bureaucratic and unrepresentative. Shame on them.

It seems the Japanese can’t comprehend how they can use their personal seal without fax paper. Industry service organisations can’t comprehend how successful businesses could see no value in sitting on their committees.

Pause and reflect on your own organisation and work habits. I’m sure you will discover some perfectly good fax machines. I know I’ve spotted a few of my own recently.

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