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Mayan Hangover

It’s not often that having a background in both archeology and technology seems useful, but when you’re facing the end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it, then it’s surprising what becomes relevant.

On Dec 21st, the 13th b'ak'tun in the Mayan calendar comes to an end and the following day the Mayan “long count calendar” resets to 0.0.0.0.1. And while generally opinions seem to point to the fact that the end of the 13th b'ak'tun doesn’t actually mean the end of the world, it represents for the Mayans a point of significant change.

In the Mayan view of the world, there have been many changes, and each change heralded a better way of “doing things”. Each cycle brought about changes that resulted in a world more closely aligned to the will of the gods, replacing each instance of humanity with a better one.

“The first version of humanity was made from mud, but these people could not move or speak, and they easily crumbled. After this failed, the creators summoned other gods, and remade mankind out of wood. The wooden men were able to move and speak, but they were soulless creatures who quickly forgot about the gods. For their third attempt, the gods created men out of maize (which was the primary source of food for the Maya).” 

Source: http://www.ancient-mythology.com/mayan/2012.php

So for Mayans, each cycle wasn’t concluded with an ‘end of the world’ event (well, unless you happened to be made of mud in their first go-round); rather, a new world emerges, one that better matches some ideal for that time. So although change can be painful, there is in each a chance to better perfect what is already there.

Sound familiar?

I’m pretty sure the Mayans didn’t have any direct commentary on cloud or mobility or BYOD, but the fact is that, for many who hold on to a traditional view of the interaction of technology and business, the world *is* coming to an end, albeit not as obviously as in the movies.

The pressure to adopt – and adapt to – a succession of new technology waves has reached the point where the dam of traditional thinking is at a breaking point and the flood waters are already starting to sweep away much of what was there before.

Yet, just as in the case of the Mayan calendar, this doesn’t represent a catastrophe. What’s happening in the world of IT isn’t some biblical plague, but rather an opportunity to do-over, to adopt a better way in order to meet the goals and objectives that IT must ultimately serve.

Fighting against change is pointless … it comes anyway. For those in IT, this means your world *will* be defined by cloud services and mobile computing and social identity. But these changes – while they clearly can and probably will be painful – are a chance to rewrite the rules, to redefine the process, to reintroduce the IT organization to the business in a way that is relevant and important.

Look upon these changes just as you might look upon your own personal life on New Year’s Day when you set your resolutions: this is a chance to throw out the old and outdated and to adopt a new, better set of habits and a more positive tone for the future of your IT organization. Yes it looks chaotic, and a little crazy, but in the end it all settles down and things start to make sense again. The new normal asserts itself and the world moves on. And, like every other calendar change, there are those that celebrate and those that mourn the passing of the old (and yes, those that have a hangover too).

So don’t sweat the doomsday prophecy of 12-21-12. Think of it as a reminder from folks long ago that nothing lasts forever, and sometimes change is as good as it is painful.