Thursday, December 12, 2013

Holiday Musings on Cooperation and Collaboration in the AV industry

It's non sectarian holiday time in the city. Last night was one of the New York AV community's traditions: the Sapphire Marketing holiday party at the Crestron showroom in midtown Manhattan. In what may or may not become a bee annual party of the transition, George Tucker and Chris Neto broadcast an AV related chat and discussion live from the party. Those who missed it live can feel free to catch the archive here. In addition to the fun and unsurprising revelations as to who cost Redband their TV-G rating and who brought their own booze to the party (no, I won't say here; you'll be missing the experience I'd your don't watch!) an observation Chris Neto made highlighted an interesting thought about the nature of our industry in this age of social media. That thought wad simply this: while he and I are technically competitors, we'd not only made little attempt to kill either but were actively exchanging information. There are fewer secrets than there might once have been in the industry. This is a good thing.
Live webcast at the party.
(Image from the Crestron Facebook page)

We've all met the technician, designer, our engineers who hoard knowledge, as if in fear that if someone else knows what they know it will diminish their value. This, to me, is one of the most toxic kinds of attitude I see in any tech industry. It's obvious that if we're hiding from our co-workers we're weakening our overall team by not letting all members be as efficient and effective as we can be. What about hiding things from competitors? Wouldn't my team at SMW be better off had I thought to poison some of the drinks we shared with our competitors rather than chat with them about technology? As temptingly simple an idea as that may be, it's overall a poor idea.

First of all, poisoning just one colleague's drink makes it much harder to end up on the guest list for future parties. More seriously is a point George Tucker made (and I elaborated on) - we're maturing as an industry. When one looks to build a house, one doesn't look for an architect with secret knowledge of steel or a mason with special, proprietary cement. One expects everyone to know the same basics of how a building is constructed and to apply that knowledge to fit your needs. It's about the process, the planning, and understanding the big picture much more than about the technical capabilities of one piece of hardware or another. As I said to Tucker, my value added isn't in my ability to memorize spec sheets.

Sharing holiday cheer at the party, in a spirit of openness.
A consultant, a vendor, a programmer, and
George (a category unto himself)
(Image from the Crestron Facebook page)
The other reason for openness is that we have reached a point in the industry at which we're seeing changes in quite a few basic assumptions about what constitutes an AV system. The basic changes should be familiar to those who've read this blog or followed the industry as a whole: the "bring your own device" trend, the rise of streaming solutions, the increase in small "huddle" type rooms as opposed to larger formal meeting rooms, and increase in availability of wireless transport, increases in software conferencing as opposed to dedicated hardware Codecs. As an industry, everyone involved looks smarter and more competent if we not only speak the same language but share an understanding of the challenges in this new environment. Not only to all of these raise too many questions for any of us to come up with the answer. Opening dialog creates an atmosphere in which we can all learn from eachother, and all become better at what we do.

I'll close with a bit of news in this vein- news that I alluded to in the Redband interview: starting in January the Shen, Milsom & Wilke blog is going to be re-launched with new content, including at least occaisonal posts from your favorite pixel-and-ink-stained wretch. Don't worry, I'll still maintain this space, but there'll be more engagement from us as a team, including posts from some very bright and talented people I'm lucky to have the chance to work with and learn from. 

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