With the year winding down, we asked a few of AV-1′s thoughtful insiders to sum up the year in one word. And, while at it, we asked what one word they would wish to be able to claim as 2011′s “One Word” at the end of the coming year.
At the end of this article, use the comments tool to share the One Word you would use to describe 2010 (and what you’d like for 2011)! Or, chime in on the AV-1 List.
As in… “You mean I might really lose my job?” “You really need me to justify this $20 expenditure?” “Do they (Washington politicians) really know what they’re doing?” “Am I really 49?” “You really like me?” “Was I really like that as a teenager?”
As in… “I think I can do that.” “Just when you think you can go no further…” “Think about this as an opportunity, not a problem.” “And to think I almost passed on this.” “And you, sir, please tell me what you think.”
I used to love this word, but in 2010, I learned to hate it. I loved AV technology evolution (change). I thrived upon challenges of rediscovering the best value via new tech demands … even with diminished dollars (spare change).
I have been energized by turning cranky Luddites into agents for change who “discovered” new ways to use new tech. I even came to accept reorganizations (change) every three years or so. But put my beloved career choice in the cross hairs; nope, don’t like that “change”; hate it.
All change entails degree s of Risk. However dramatic Change (i.e. change without a good plan; or the “look good at any cost” kind of change, or even the “we better not have any mistakes” kind of change) can lead to chaos and uncertainty. With repeated doses of these scenarios, an organization’s culture (including change agents) undergoes operant conditioning and grows risk-averse (and, consequently change-averse). Progress and improvement come to a halt.
So, for 2011, I would like to find my way back to what I love to do: helping to solve problems where people-space-AV intersect. I think that is a risk worth taking.
In 2010 the threat of large budget cuts led to new opportunities. Before swinging the ax, our administration gave me the opportunity to explain what my budget entails and what effect the cuts would have. This opportunity opened a whole new line of communication and trust of what my group does. It also gave the administration the opportunity to articulate the expectations that come with a budget that does not get slashed. In turn, we proved that we could keep a flat budget AND improve services. This was a big win for us.
The opportunity to use different types of meeting resources, such as web meetings, video conferencing and Skype gave us new and exciting projects. It was also the year that I personally realized that if you put in the time and effort, new opportunities await you.
I would love for 2011 to be captured in the word, professionalism. AV practitioners have long been the step child of IT. With hard work and consistent cheerleading on our own behalf, we can help people realize that what we do is complicated, important work.
Batteries die! Cables need to be connected! Tech takes up space! Ceiling microphones and speech reinforcement don’t mix! You can’t fight physics. If the tech is important to you, please reconcile yourself to its shortcomings and idiosyncrasies. Whinging about how “I ought to be able to do everything wirelessly” may not make it so and I advise those who think otherwise not to pass too many filling stations when the gauge hits “E” just because “by now cars ought to get 100-miles per gallon.”
There are times when I wonder (worry, more like) if the design choices we make are a tip of the hat to tech. Want to build a great room to teach in? Please consider starting out with a room that’s great to learn in instead of beginning with the tech questions… “Where are we going to hang the projector?” “Where does the rack go?”
Great tech isn’t going to help bad teaching and bad tech will never keep a great teacher down. Aristotle was a pretty fair teacher. He had no projector or iPad and his students sat on stone.
And great teaching is sometimes a messy affair: Desks and chairs get pushed around and sometimes an experiment goes awry. Great teachers and their enlightened pupils tidy up after themselves.
We spend way too much time sending email. Without any hard evidence, I am confident in making the outlandish claim that we send and receive five-times as many email messages today compared to just a few years ago, yet I doubt that many of us read more than a quarter of what reaches our inbox (excluding the spam). Not only is there little time, most of the email, frankly, is void of meaning.
For 2011, I implore you to start a revolution of your own self-worth: When you need someone’s attention or you are called on for action, don’t send an email — use the telephone. If they are not in and you get their voice mail, tell them their counsel is important to you so you’ll be dropping by their office at, say 9:30 tomorrow morning and please call if there is a more convenient time. Schedule the visit in your calendar and tomorrow morning at 9:15, pop two tic-tacs and walk across campus.
Face-mail trumps e-mail and voice mail every time.
If you really want to leave an impression, you can always go old-school: after a pleasant and productive meeting, send the person a hand-written thank-you note with your business card and mobile number. It will leave a lasting impression.
When a professor says, “I just know that future classrooms must be flexible, above all else!” What they mean is, I have no bloody idea what I want… and I look forward to the day when I can walk into my new classroom and blame it all on you!
When an architect says to the professor, “Of course, above all else, your room will be flexible.” What they mean is, I have no clue what you’re talking about and, frankly, there isn’t enough money in this project for me to waste my time trying to figure it out… but I can put floor boxes every 4-feet and I can specify that all the furniture must be on wheels and that all the classrooms must be separated by accordion partition walls — because that’s what ‘flexible’ means to me.
Hearing words like “flexible” isn’t a cue to clam up and stop using your listening skills and powers of dialog to sift through the horse-hockey to find the crux of the biscuit. Will it require a little bravery from time to time? Yup, it just might. And on occasion it’s going to be a notch or two above your pay grade and if that’s just too much work, then you’re in the wrong business.
I am so tired of hearing people say, “we have to innovate!” (Oops, I just threw up a little in my mouth again.) How come it always seems like innovation is something other people do? Folks smarter than us. Folks paid to be smart. (Around here, we haven’t seen much of that in the recent past.)
Here’s what I think: Innovation is a term that should only be used by historians. Looking back, most of the stuff we now think of as “great innovations” were widely regarded as hare-brained contraptions. And what about those “great innovators” way back in their day? Well, with the possible exception of Ben Franklin and Marie Curie, most were thought of as being not all together all together (and I’m not too sure about those folks, either).
Some great innovations — like post-it notes and microwave ovens — were just dumb luck. Other innovations — like the telephone and flush toilets — were improvised solutions that stuck better than expected.
Some people are crazy like this: They latch on to a problem and refuse to let go until they get something worked out. More often than not, a few hilarious near-death experiences ensue before they emerge from the basement, their eyebrows singed, with a mess of baling wire and bubble gum, proclaiming, not “Eureka!” but, “you know, I think this just might work,” as they rub the bump on their head.
We make change through improvisation. Mostly it’s incremental and mostly there are plenty setbacks and failures along the way. If you (or your organization) don’t have the stomach for failure, this may be a good time to polish that resume. Here’s why: If you’re not up for it, rest assured that someone above you perceives you as little more than desk-fill where the only impression you’ve made is in the seat of your precious Aeron chair and you, my friend, will not be missed. If, on the other hand, your organization isn’t up for it, then your little experiments are most likely perceived as unwelcome wild-west antics that risk capsizing the whole ship and you may expect to be fed to the sharks any day now.
In this day, the “smart” folks have never struck me as more clueless and I think it’s high-time for a little outside-the-box thinking, don’t you? So get to it!
(Btw, you don’t get to be called “a visionary” until after your dead.)