17 August 2009 • 12:18 pm

Latent Demand for Change

What seems like many hundreds of years ago, I got my start in information technology working with mainframe computers. It was then that I first learned of a concept called ‘latent demand.’ As utilization of those giant computers (whose power back then was approximately equal to that of a modern cell phone) increased over time, companies would plan to upgrade to larger, faster machines. In the months and weeks leading up to the upgrade, demand for computer power would approach the theoretical capacity of the old machine, and processing would become painfully slow. But the surplus power provided by the upgrade would very quickly disappear – consumed by the pent-up demand for processing power that hadn’t been met before. And then the cycle of slowdown and upgrade would be repeated. The demand for more computing power in the enterprise is insatiable. But this phenomenon is not just seen in the realm of information technology – it applies to change in organizations as well.