The first two habits are:
These habits will help you understand and work with the forces created by trends and innovations. They are complimented by other habits such as Habit 4 – Improve your situational awareness.
Habit 1 – Get comfortable with not knowing everything
Let’s not beat around the bush here. Habit 1 is the most powerful yet hardest to achieve. It can be made harder where personality types are involved. Recently the team I am in took part in Insights Discovery profiling. All bar one profile came back as the type of person who needs to be cautious, precise, deliberate, detailed, analytical and structured. (Can you guess the one person who did not fit the ‘type’). How can you let things go if you need the details?
In the words of Anna from Frozen, sometimes we’ve just got to let it go. Whilst I do not suggest building an ice palace and shutting yourself in, you can get comfortable with not knowing everything by resisting the urge to “boil the ocean” – you need to be selective with what you know and what you control. You need to build trust in those around you to help carry the load. Keeping track can be full-time job in itself so do not kid yourself that you can. That’s were Habit 2 comes in.
Habit 2 – Synergy through community
Habit 2 is intended to help with the challenge exposed by Habit 1. In order to address this challenge I recommend you surround yourself with people, both in your organisation and from the wider community, that through the collective provides you with access to knowing everything. Habit 2 enhances your breadth and depth without the premium of time. It’s not the knowing, it is knowing who to ask.
Applying Habits 1 and 2 is most important when trying to keep up with trends and innovations. As an IT Pro, if we think about Office 365 for a moment:
- 470 new features are being readied for release or are already rolling out in 2020… (and that’s the ones the Microsoft feel are significant for inclusion in their roadmap)
- There continues to be a new Windows build every 6 months and Microsoft Office is seemly updating every week
- We are in a perpetual (virtual) conference season that promises more shiny toys and yet more change
- Shifting sands of licensing and compliance requirements mean that we need to keep our IT estates up to date or at least within n versions
And that is just Office 365, if you lump in security patches, hotfixes, Azure or other vendors such as Google, Autodesk etc. as well then you’ll soon be swimming against the tide unless you are focussed and selective. This rapid pace of change feeds through to your users in the form of daily or weekly updates that need to be as frictionless as possible.
Whilst trying to avoid stating the obvious, trends and innovation can also occur from within. Your colleagues and users (aka consumers) will be looking to technology to bring them innovations, efficiencies and advantages over their competition. They’ll be having ideas as to their direction of travel and what for them is the next best thing. Staff in the organisation will be comparing their home consumer experience – any app, any device, any time – with the rigidity of IT service – our apps, on our schedule, on our devices. The role of today’s IT Pro is to act as their guide and facilitator, but personality type may not make it easy for them. Through Habit 1 I am encouraging you to let it go – not all the way but just a enough. Nor will it be easy as switching to a mindset of providing guardrails and not rigid configuration is not one that fits with traditional management systems and business processes either.
This is where community can really help. Often the community that supports you includes the people you support. It is not just made up of your fellow tech / knowledge domain peers. Communities include power users, early adopters, influential team leaders and even that person who is infamous for the hundred calls per day to your service desk.
They all contribute a rich, panoramic view of technology changes, trends and innovations. Some have become deeper experts in scenarios and software than you will ever have time to be. Work with them. Learn with them and from their questions, from their stories and observations. With your knowledge and experience, be a filter and take the time to build your trust in them.
Use your knowledge of the external trends and innovations combined with the perspective of community to help identify situations like when “buying not building” makes more sense, where effort would be wasted or where effort should be invested.
In summary, my recommendations are to:
- Stop trying to boil the ocean – it is time to let it go
- Take a light touch approach and raise your awareness of what is around you
- Use this awareness to focus on the skills that matter to you (which through the see-saw you need to align the direction of the organisation – more about that in Knowing me, knowing you, aha!)
- Communicate the items that matter to your colleagues and organisation
- Use the power of community as additional pairs of eyes, ears and collective voices
- Be the filter and shepherd for your colleagues and customers
Just bear in mind keeping track of trends and innovations can be a full-time job in itself. Set up some alerts and carve out a couple minutes every day to keep up. Personally, and before Covid-19, I found the dead time of my commute the perfect time to catch up with community and think about trends and innovation.