The value of counterintuitive advice

Don't let the mess on Wall Street spook you. Refuse to follow the herd and new opportunities will pop up where you least expect them

There's no doubt that we live in tough times after a week like this one. And while I'm not a financial analyst, I have a suggestion: Let's all take a deep breath and spend a few moments thinking about the counterintuitive actions we should be taking to help the tech industry and ourselves.

No, I am not talking about picking stocks, which I am absolutely terrible at anyway. But there are going to be technologies that will benefit from the financial meltdowns we are witnessing, and it's time to get some perspective.

So, what do I think is counterintuitive in tech? Some analysts are expecting cloud computing to take off despite the economic downturn, because the business model is pay-as-you-go. I think a more precise statement is that managed services in the cloud provide a sort of fall-back plan. Simply put, you may need to lay off people whose responsibility it is to manage the network, security, servers, and so on. To keep the lights on, a cloud-based managed service may be your only alternative.

But let's not get too downbeat. Even in a harsh economic environment -- or maybe especially in that environment -- you need to keep an open mind when fresh ideas emerge. I know. I was one of those guys who thought the Web was just a fad and the world was fine with FTP and Gopher.

Here's another missed opportunity. Not so long ago, a VC friend of mine was approached by a guy who thought selling ring tones for a buck apiece was going to become a billion-dollar business. Back then, the VC couldn't imagine people paying a buck for a stupid ring tone, and he laughed the guy out of his office. Today, Americans spend nearly $2 million per day on ring tones.

A story this week provided a more businesslike example of counterintuitive thinking. People don't realize it, but desktop virtualization pursued to the limit is a back-to-the-future proposition. At Amerisure Insurance, they replaced 800 PCs with thin clients running virtual Windows desktops, resulting in better user support and a much lower TCO -- while users happily sit at terminals, much as they did in the old mainframe days.

So as you are pulling your money out of mutual funds, driving your SUV around to find an open bank branch where you can withdraw your cash to stow under your mattress, and lamenting the evaporating value of your stock portfolio, think about some other counterintuitive positions and what new trails you can blaze in your own tech universe.