Nuts and Bolts: Figure It Out

“Quit reading case study porn and get on with it.”— Tweet from Euan Semple

I was at local music-and-crafts festival on the Fourth of July (OK, I was playing with my ukulele ensemble, if you must know). There were several stages for audiences of varying sizes, and over the years the organizers have moved increasingly toward booking lesser-known local musicians. 

So over on the smallest stage a fun bunch of guys who comprise a band called Chocolate Suede found out just before their start time that there was a power problem. While it was being reconciled they took their non-electric instruments, hopped down off the stage, and performed a fun ad hoc acoustic folky set for whoever cared to move closer to hear. Once the power was fixed they went back up onstage and delivered a great rehearsed jazzy-bluesy electrified show completely unlike the one they had just done on the ground. They started and finished on time despite the challenges.

Compare this to something that happened over on a bigger stage, where a better-known, established local group was setting up and found the sound quality wasn’t quite to their liking. There were tantrums. There was sulking. There was the hurling of insults at The Sound Guy, who was doing his best to deal with a different band every hour, in an outdoor festival setting, among milling craft shoppers and sometimes competing noise from other bands nearby. There was refusal to play. The band started late, and they ended late, putting those who were there specifically to see them at risk of missing the shuttle buses back to the parking lot three miles away.    

Well, first of all: Don’t be that band.

Second: Learn from Chocolate Suede. Make it happen. Figure it out.

And apply that to nonmusical endeavors:

  • Don’t have money for a solution you’re after? Find a free tool, or just do what you can to satisfy a stakeholder now to buy yourself more time for a better solution later.  
  • Charged with designing a great course from terrible (think dry, policy, technical) source material? Don’t blame your content. Figure it out. That’s your job.
  • Don’t have support or money for an “enterprise-wide” solution? Try working with a test group, or a pilot, or a small group of volunteers, or a single work unit, or a collection of people with the same job title. Or maybe even try something outside the organization. Many of my social media “experiments” start with good-sport Facebook and Twitter friends.
  • (Don’t know how to or have no support for) getting started with showing your work? Stop storing files in My Documents and put them somewhere—anywhere—that offers the chance for someone who could use them to find them.
  • Not “allowed” to? Find out why. At one point years ago I was the only person in the whole organization who had Skype access. When it was blocked, I’m the only one who asked why, then was the only one to offer a business case for needing the product. Turns out there were concerns about vulnerabilities due to file sharing in Skype … so I said I wouldn’t use Skype to share files. Have you asked if it’s even true that you’re not “allowed” (sometimes that’s just a myth)? Have you looked for negotiation points? Organization “doesn’t allow” social media use? Really? I bet your marketing department, or customer-relations shop, is using something. How can you start there, where they are?
  • Paralyzed from starting for lack of someone else’s best practices and similar data, which is often just another game called Resistance by Delay?  As Euan Semple says: “Quit reading case study porn and get on with it.” Then YOU write the cases.

You know what? Sometimes you just gotta punt. And when the power goes out, don’t be that guy who throws the tantrum. Start on time. Finish on time. Develop the skills you need that will help you improvise in a pinch. Make it work. Do your job. Figure it out.

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