Tuesday, January 21, 2014

If you're tired of the same old story...turn some pages

The familiar is...well....familiar!  We all like the familiar.  We're happy with it, it's comfortable, it's easy.  We know it well, we withdraw to the familiar when things aren't going well.  We are drawn the familiar when we need comfort or affirmation.

And herein lies the problem.  How do you grow?  How do you get differing opinions if you aren't challenged?

Quote to think about
"If you're dumb, surround yourself with smart people.  If you're smart, surround yourself with smart people that disagree with you." -Isaac Jaffe, SportsNight.

Still The Same...
When I was a part of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Large Firm Round Table for CIO's, one of our members asked that we get involved in the recently (at the time) formed Association of General Contractors (AGC) BIM Forum.    The first one I went to was in North Carolina, and subsequent ones were in Florida, Tahoe, Kansas City, etc.  But after a while, I stopped going to the BIM Forum.  I wasn't getting anything out of it.   Why?

The same people saying the same thing.  I don't know if this was by design or not, but it was the by product of the group in my eyes.

Now, it's just an example.  So if you are from the BIM Forum, please don't take offense to my opinion...it's just that: my opinion.  I could use one of a whole bunch of similar examples:  local user groups, industry groups, technology conferences that do the same.   There's always an 'alpha group' of the same people doing similar things.

It's easy to get into Groupthink...which is "a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people, in which the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an incorrect or deviant decision-making outcome. Group members try to minimize conflict and reach a consensus decision without critical evaluation of alternative ideas or viewpoints, and by isolating themselves from outside influences."

When you get into talking to the same people talking about the same thing in the same manner and the same context, one can get real stale real fast.  You can't grow.

Branching Out To a New Idea

Many years ago, I tried to commit myself to be more 'agnostic' with my approach to technology.  I wanted to be open to multiple ways of doing things in multiple technology platforms versus my 'old familiar.'  I grew up Bentley.  I know many right now are leaning or grew up Autodesk or other vendors when it comes to my AEC background, and that's fine.  I was also a Bentley (and Autodesk) reseller at one point in my life.  So, it's easy to fall into the evangelistic role  for a product, and it's easy to get into a "every problem is a nail when all you have is a hammer" approach.  When I moved into management, I made it a goal to step back, and be less "Bentley" and more holistic....look at it from another angle. 

So I went to...Autodesk University.   The differences in approach, in content, in speakers, in many things to what I was used to was very palpable.  Each vendor's conferences has their strengths and challenges.   But the fact that I was a staunch Bentley user going to Autodesk University is the key here....and what did I learn?

Well, I'll admit: I don't necessarily go to AU to learn keystrokes and function/features.  I go to learn other things.  Things like presentation styles, people skills,  networking, conference ideas, technology on the show room floor that may apply to me and my firm, global work-sharing ideas, and a host of things I may not have learned at my familiar conference with the same people.

I got out of my comfort zone, and went and looked around at what else was going on.  I chose to look at something different, and learn. 

This year, I am going to the Revit Technology Conference Design Technologists conference.  Now, I am no longer a primary Revit user (nor was I ever primarily a Revit user.)  But I'm going.  Why?  Get out of my comfort zone.  Go and get a different perspective.   See how others in other platforms deal with the same problem.  Will it change my mind to use Revit in my field?  No. probably not, as I am in the process piping world now.  I don't see Revit as a fit for what we do.  Is that OK?  Sure it is.  Not a fit for everyone...

But the RTC group has smart peers that have similar problems:  technology adoption, change management, chase the sun engineering or global work-share, and a host of other things.

Now, and please take this as constructive criticism and tongue-in-cheek ribbing, but I hope the RTC users will be the same in trying to get out of their comfort zone.  People who have passion for their way, their tech, their whatever....seem to trend towards "My way is best, why would you not do <insert "thing" here.>"  I used to be this way....my preferred technology, all the way, 100%, nothing else matters, and you were dumb if you thought elsewhere.

Now, I call myself "agnostic, with preference."  And by going to other places that don't work around or with my preference, I am learning that many of our problems are similar, many of our solutions are similar, and we can learn from each other, no matter our preference.

Make the Change that you are on the Brink of

My challenge to you:  get out of your comfort zone.  Don't only go to your familiar...go to a conference or a user group that uses something you don't (or may never) use.  See what they do, see why they do it.  Don't go there to sell your way, or to be smug about your choice...go there in the spirit of learning.  We are all smart people, we all have our way, we all do things for reasons.  Instead of looking down, why not ask "why"?

Going solely to the same session at the same conference every year listening to the same people talk about the same or similar things is familiar, it's comfortable, it's affirmative...it also makes you stagnant.  

Get uncomfortable.  Go learn.  Go grow.

Song Lyric Referenced:
REO Speedwagon - Roll With the Changes