12. November, 2007 - Keeping fresh

Another week came and went, with a few shake-ups. There were folks in town from the home office last week, and part of the reason they were here was to go on a couple customer visits. I ended up going to two of the events.

One was a cocktail-party type thing with a couple dozen customers in attendance down at the Graves 601 [warning - noisy]. I didn’t get to see much of the hotel beyond the bar / meeting room we were in, but the place was pretty swanky. The event? Well, I didn’t get much from it, since few of the customers there were actually using the bits of code I work on.

But at that event, it was pointed out that I should join the group on the visit the next day. We were headed down to Red Wing Shoes, and I had thought that would be a pretty neat visit, but couldn’t find a good justification for going until other folks corralled me into it. And once again, there wasn’t a lot that I learned that directly related to my job, but there was an opportunity for some meta-learning that I think will prove valuable in the long run.

The thing I noticed was that our marketing types, while putting on presentations, have gotten so used to making their stock presentations that they get stuck in a rut. They’ve lost their Beginner’s Mind. Now normally, this is just fine. Being an expert means that you’ve figured out the most effective way to do things, and you ignore the alternatives without even realizing what you’re doing, because you’ve found a nice efficient path which you’ve worn into a mental rut.

The problem arises when something new comes along. Add a bridge across a river, and suddenly your winding path that follows one side of the river might not be the shortest path anymore. It might make more sense to cross to the other side and take a shortcut (which also happens to apply to the drive down to Red Wing - crossing into Wisconsin makes a shorter drive).

And that’s exactly the thing I noticed last week during that customer visit. Because I’m a relative newcomer, there are things I just don’t know how to do with our product (even more so with older versions). Which means that when faced with those tasks, I’m lost in the wilderness, casting around for any way to get the job done. Most of the time, this is a handicap, but sometimes, especially when we’ve added new features (which I know about because I keep an eye on what’s new), it means I’ll latch onto a way of getting the job done that old-timers don’t even think to look for. They’ve lost their Beginner’s Mind, and that became very clear to me last week.

The upshot of all of this is that now that I’ve had this revelation, I probably have even more work to do, since there are some serious improvements that could be made in the presentations these folks are doing in front of real customers. But because it means climbing out of a comfortable rut, convincing them that there’s a better way is going to be a lot of work. Heck, convincing them that there’s even another way is going to be work. And they, in turn, will need to show customers there’s another way, and convince them it’s better. Or at least more efficient.

So there’s some extra work to be done this week. Guess that means I should quit typing at you and get to it. Have a swell week!

Copyright 2009, Dave Polaschek. Last updated on Mon, 15 Feb 2010 14:01:46.