David J. Danto
Principal Consultant, Collaboration/ AV / Multimedia / Video / UC
Director of Emerging Technology
Interactive Multimedia & Collaborative Communications Alliance
Pssst - what are the other guys doing?
One of the things my father used to say is that the day you stop learning is the day you’re dead. Now dear old dad was a colorful individual to say the least, and much of what he said I either couldn’t or wouldn’t print, but that expression is one of the few gems of the lot.
I consider my professional life as starting when I interned and then free-lanced as a studio engineer for AT&T Corporate Television at 195 Broadway beginning in September of 1978. That puts me at thirty-five years of figuring out what I want to be when I grow-up. The one constant that dad’s advice provided me is that it was never enough to just know what I knew. All things – especially technology things – change so rapidly that anyone calling themselves an “expert” or even just a “professional” in a specific area has to force themselves to keep learning if they want to maintain that edge. I understood at every point in my career that a teenager coming out of high school would inherently know more about the technology he grew up with than I knew – unless I worked at it. That work includes attendance at industry gatherings and conferences (which I’ve written about before), working with manufacturers and software producers, and - quite simply – finding out what everybody else is doing.
When I was working for “end-user” firms, I was constantly seeking out peers at similar firms in an effort to find out how they were handling the problems and issues I was faced with. Which firms / people came to the same conclusions as I…which organizations figured-out new approaches…which organizations hit problems I had not encountered yet…etc. I joined industry associations and advisory boards whenever I had the chance. I took every opportunity I could to keep learning – or stay alive as my dad would say.
Now that I am on the other side of the business (as a consultant) “How are other firms handling this” it is still the number one question I’m asked. Smart people know that constant “trial and error” will eventually get them to the right answer (if they still have their job at the end) but there is usually an easier way. It was Bill gates who said “I choose a lazy person to do a hard job. Because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it.” Lazy may be a bit harsh in this circumstance, but the sentiment is the same. As the even older proverb says ‘we stand taller on the shoulders of those who came before us.’ The cool part of all this is that helping organizations understand this is now part of my actual job description. I can explain and demonstrate what other clients have done to solve problems and achieve great successes (without revealing any confidences of course.) I can also detail what didn’t work and why – saving organizations huge, wasted investments in time and money.
This opportunity has also given me a great sense of perspective. When I was with the end-user firms I took the company policies as a fixed mandate and rarely questioned them. Security, Compliance, technical policies – all of these were obviously regulated and written in stone. Now that I work with dozens of organizations I understand that all of those “requirements” are really just the interpretations of individuals. No two organizations interpret requirements in exactly the same way. This is as it should be, as no two firms have exactly the same priorities and needs. The difficulty in getting organizations to see that usually lies with their technology leadership. These people tend to shop the market for solutions and decide upon them. That’s great for you if you’re selling solutions (like a manufacturer) but no so smart if one wants to meet an organization’s actual needs. It is much wiser to start with an organization’s people – an end user base that becomes a “focus group” then “adoption advocates” – before technology decisions are made. Organizations have different users with different use cases, and it is ridiculous to assume each user group has the same needs. It’s even more ridiculous to assume every organization has exactly the same blend of user groups. Getting this segmentation right is the first step to a successful technology strategy. Sometimes I can convince organizations to “learn” this, sometimes I can’t (and they wind up buying what a manufacturer convinced them they needed all along.) It’s usually those organizations that wonder why their technology adoption rates and ROI are so low.
So the two morals of this story are 1) Organizations and individuals should never stop learning – even if it requires a concerted effort to seek-out other opinions and face some past incorrect assumptions; and 2) Take advantage of every opportunity you can to find out what other similar organizations and individuals are doing. Maybe they have solved a problem you’re also having, or have already faced one you weren’t even aware of. Accomplishing those two things can be done in many ways. You can attend and participate in industry conferences and seminars. (Take a peek at the bottom of http://Danto.info to see which ones I’ll be attending in the near future as a start.) You can join the relevant industry associations and participate or even just listen to the dialog. And then there’s always that part about hiring a qualified consultant – just make sure he or she is one that knows they need to keep learning new things in order to keep their edge alive.
This article was written by David Danto and contains solely his own, personal opinions. David has over three decades of experience providing problem solving leadership and innovation in media and unified communications technologies for various firms in the corporate, broadcasting and academic worlds including AT&T, Bloomberg LP, FNN, Morgan Stanley, NYU, Lehman Brothers and JP Morgan Chase. He now works with Dimension Data as their Principal Consultant for the collaboration, multimedia, video and AV disciplines. He is also the IMCCA’s Director of Emerging Technology. David can be reached at David.Danto@Dimensiondata.com or DDanto@imcca.org and his full bio and other blogs and articles can be seen at Danto.info. Please reach-out to David if you would like to discuss how he can help your organization solve problems or develop a future-proof collaboration strategy.
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