As you probably know, I’m a regular contributor to Larry Jordan’s Digital Production BuZZ talking about a variety of topics from technical to esoteric. Larry, Michael Horton and I recently started a discussion – yet again – on whether or not Final Cut Pro X was “for the pros” but fortunately moved the topic toward managing change. We all felt that the discussion about FCP X was over, since it is being used all across the professional production spectrum, but pondered why it still generates controversy.
The discussion was one of the best we’ve had on the BuZZ, and I felt that each of the questions deserved a little more depth than I could go into with a two minute answer.
Larry led off by asking:
You’ve been quoted as saying that people want things to improve but they don’t want things to change. How do you see the difference?
While this seems contradictory, because all improvement requires some kind of change, most people ignore incremental change but balk at more significant change that requires obvious new learning, or worse, relearning. My observation has been that people really do not like change. Probably for very good reason.
When we were young having our parents come out and say “Things are going to change around here” never seemed like it worked out well. Likewise, when a boss tells us that “things are going to change” it’s also rarely for the better, so people become change averse.
At the same time, we desire new features in our software, new tools and better ways to deal with the routine of our lives, except we get comfortable doing the things that we know how to do. When somebody brings a new format to us, or somebody brings a new editing interface to us, or somebody brings just a new way of doing something, even if it’s better or potentially better, we don’t like having that change thrust upon us.
Not everyone is change averse. I’m always looking for the new thing, and that’s good for me. Except I clearly remember my early days on computers: every time I opened a new interface my immediate feeling was shock and that “I’ll never learn that”. But I did. And another interface followed, and yet another. Over time I realized I was going to conquer those new apps: it was just a matter of time.
The other issue with learning is that it takes time. In classic tree cutting, time had to be taken from cutting down the tree, to (literally) sharpen the saw. We all get the message that working with a blunt saw is going to be much harder and less productive overall, than taking the time out to sharpen the saw.
What we don’t get is that sharpening our knowledge is every bit as essential to our work productivity. Yet we are reluctant to take time out to learn new skills.
Michael Horton pointed out that this is a generational thing. Younger people seem to gravitate to what’s new. Of course younger people are still in learning mode, while older workers tend to “know how things are done’ and will keep doing them. Unless exercised regularly our brains become less plastic, less able to learn new stuff. The solution is life-long learning.
I noticed the generational shift a few years ago with a young protégé of mine back in Australia. He had an almost intuitive grasp of my Media 100 despite – or perhaps because of – a complete lack of editing or postproduction experience. (This was an art project for his Senior year.)
When I asked him how he learnt Media 100 so fast, he replied that it was fairly obvious since he’d already seen Pro Tools! To his mind, the audio and video tool were similar. And I guess they are in that they both have media organized in some way along a timeline. What was interesting is how he processed the similarity, where my generation tends to let the difference dominate.
There’s another reason that the younger generation are more comfortable with change: they’ve known nothing else. I often joke that “the only constant is change”, except there is only constant change. Not learning, unlearning and relearning is not an option.
People want the change that’s a couple of new tools in a new release of an editing tool. People don’t want to be faced with rethinking and relearning a completely new editing interface, with some new paradigms underneath, even if they were guaranteed it would be faster or better.
Perhaps its because “improvements” feel more like walking up a gently climbing path while “change” feels like a set of steep steps or (for some) an insurmountable cliff. If there are new paradigms or workflows to be learnt, there will be significant unlearning involved.
It’s my strong belief that those who are best able to quickly leave behind – unlearn – knowledge that’s no longer useful or current will be those who adapt quickest to change. Alvin Toffle takes it even further:
The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.
As an adult I discover how influenced my thinking has been by copious science fiction reading in my youth. Asimov’s Profession turns out to be what inspired the Intelligent Assistance “Knowledge at the point of need” tools from 1999-2007. My approach to unlearning, or focusing forward (Toward the Future in NLP speak, for those who care) is also heavily influenced by a science fiction story I read (although cannot remember the name of right now). Update: The book is The Dark Cloud by Fred Hoyle.
In this story – from my distant memory so I may not be 100% spot on – an astronomer discovers a dark mass approaching Earth. Over time it’s discovered that this dark mass is an incredibly ancient intelligence and not threatening. The alien intelligence offers to “download” its knowledge to a chosen human.
Being the central character of the story our astronomer becomes the chosen vessel. Ultimately he goes mad, or dies, because he cannot resolve the conflict between so much of what he “knows absolutely as a scientist” and the new knowledge. He posits that it would have been better to choose the gardener because they would not have the same level of conflict in their knowledge that he did.
I see this as a very good parallel – and wish I could remember the name and writer of that story – between “improvement” and “change”. When it conflicts with our current ways of working, or currently comfortable knowledge, we don’t like it. And yes, I see a real parallel with Final Cut Pro X: new users adopt it very easily, while it seems the more history someone has with another NLE, the harder it is to unlearn and relearn.
We also tend toward being “ducks” with our software tools. Ducklings ‘imprint’ on the first living thing they see – usually a mother duck, but it can be anything. I think we tend to believe that the first NLE we used was “right” and all others “wrong” in some way.
Ultimately it comes down to change requiring work, and very few people actively go out of their way to take on more work.
This is part of the interview you find at http://www.digitalproductionbuzz.com/BuZZ_Audio/Buzz_131114_Hodgetts.mp3 I will be tackling the other questions in further posts. Some of this post is based on the transcripts of the BuZZ being proved by Take1.tv.