Yesterday I went skiing. For those who've never skied with me, it's probably worth mentioning ... apparently I’m not the best skier on the slopes. In fact, I'm pretty bad. Well, really bad. I know this because almost every person I’ve ever skied with has offered me a steady stream of suggestions for improvement. Repeatedly. Exhaustively. The thing is, when I ski alone, I feel like my technique may be almost as picturesque as those expert skiers, wearing the latest sportswear, who effortlessly and gracefully glide down the mountain as though they were starring in some sort of snow ballet. You know them, they're the people who look happy, healthy, refreshed, and even have great hair when they take off their hats at the end of the day. I skied alone all afternoon and felt like I was really good. It was fun.
I also spent a fair amount of time thinking about why I enjoy skiing given that I’m no good at it. The list was pretty long.
Yesterday was the first mid-week skiing I’ve done outside of a Spring Break in ages, and maybe ever. The crowd is older, the lines are shorter (or non-existent), and the pace is a little slower. I fit in better. Or at least I feel like I do. Yesterday's experience led to a lunch conversation with my husband about perception and reality. If you feel like you ski well (even if you don’t), are you having any less fun than people who really do ski well? Many people must think that the answer is yes, because so many of them are so eager to help me improve. But there is no denying the fact that it is possible to have a great day on the slopes even if you are a pretty bad skier. I have proven this to be true :)
Thinking about ski frustrations and fun, of course got me to thinking about Tech Frustrations. And it had me comparing them with ski frustrations. It made me realize that when I get frustrated with technology, I’m often in a hurry and/or being helped by someone who knows way more than I do about how something works. I’m surrounded by these people, and I can also be one of these people. When I understand something inside and out, I can get so excited about it that I want to share my knowledge (and enjoyment) with others to get them up to speed as quickly as possible. (This must be how skiers feel when they’re around me.)
If you experience a Tech Frustration, and have the time to slow down, I suggest you give yourself permission to explore, learn, and enjoy … at your own pace. I've learned that Google can answer almost as many questions as "the experts". You simply enter your question; for example, “How do I reset the time on my Samsung Galaxy phone?” You'll usually receive a number of pointers to helpful information. YouTube may even provide you with a video showing step-by-step instructions.
The bottom line is that you don’t need to be tech savvy to enjoy tech products. As I mentioned previously, you don’t need to use every feature of a product to put it to good use. Some features may not be designed for a user like you. If you’re able to slow down, go at your own pace, explore functionality on your own terms, and enjoy the view, you may be able to eliminate a lot of Tech Frustrations.
Diversity is valuable. I’ve seen first-hand the way a diverse team can deliver high value in business. When a team includes a “strategic thinker”, a “technical genius”, a “process guru”, some “construction workers”, a “diplomat”, a “communicator”, and someone who can “sell ice cubes to Eskimos” it is often impossible to stop them from succeeding. They come up with great ideas, design great products and services, and get them into the hands of customers who often use them to produce great value for others and sometimes the world. There is no way a team of strategic thinkers could deliver as much value. Nor could a team comprised of only communicators. You get the idea.
But diversity is also hard. Once, when I was working for a large company going through significant strategic changes, the CEO was consistently communicating with employees. The message became repetitive and boring; change is hard. My reaction was to think, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. We know! You’ve told us this so many times before.” The more we got into that hard work of change, the harder it got. I still remember the very moment, in a fit of total exasperation, I thought to myself, “This is really hard!” And that’s when it hit me; the CEO had meant that this change was going to be hard for everyone … even me. In that moment I realized that every time we had been told that it would be hard, I had assumed that meant it was going to be hard for the other people, but certainly not me. Of course I was wrong. Very wrong. It was hard for everyone … including me. Diversity is usually hard … for everyone.
Years ago I remember reading a letter to the editor in our local newspaper that talked about this very issue. The writer pointed out that most people say that they value diversity. What they mean is that they don’t care what their neighbors look like or where they do (or don’t) go to church. But our value of diversity is really tested when those same neighbors don’t maintain their lawn in a way that ensures it looks like every other lawn on the block. And it gets really tested when those same neighbors come from a part of the world where dog meat is sometimes served for dinner … and your dog ends up on those neighbors’ dinner plate! That is not easy. Diversity can get very complicated very quickly.
Speaking of diversity, maybe you’ve heard that over here in the United States, we’ve just gone through an election that enabled us to express a little diversity of opinion. For those of us experiencing the aftermath, let me just tell you that it has been quite the experience, and that experience is just beginning. There are plenty of people producing plenty of commentary about what’s going on and why, so let me just tell you that as a “communicator” I find it exciting to see so many people sharing so many ideas. Diversity certainly has the power to improve our country, improve our government, and improve us as people. It’s worked very well for us in the past. I’m also finding it sad to watch as some are communicating their way to damaged relationships and lost opportunities by refusing to look at things from a different perspective. It has me wondering if maybe we all need a little more guidance about how to communicate with others when we don’t agree with them ... when we have a diversity of opinion. I suppose those books have already been written and the courses already taught. But maybe we need to seek them out right now. Maybe the media, which has mastered the art of division, would like to help us out by modeling better behavior and trying to become part of the solution.
Yesterday I had what I thought was a great idea. Or at the very least it was an idea. In an attempt to help heal a divided country, I found myself wondering (out loud to a friend on Facebook) if we could launch a program that would match people who have diverse opinions with each other. My thinking was that if we could match people who live close to each other, they could meet one-on-one and face-to-face to become slow friends. As time progressed they could discuss more significant issues. Maybe they could start by talking about the weather, and over months and months move on to more significant topics like cooking, families, sports, movies, and eventually ... ideas. The goal? World peace, of course. I think it just might work.
Which brings me to Tech Frustrations. If we’re going to resolve them, I think we need to harness the power of diversity. If you design products, I encourage you to seek out a tech-challenged friend or family member. There is power in that partnership … for both the tech-savvy person and the technically challenged. The more the “techies” see where the rest of us struggle with technology, the more you all can design the help we need right into the products. And when the tech-challenged get to know the tech-savvy? Well, heck, that’s when we learn how to use these powerful frustraters. And that’s when we realize much of their value.
So remember, diversity is hard. Maybe those of us using technology can form valuable partnerships and model the value of diversity for the rest of the world. Let’s not stop trying until we’ve achieved world peace. And freedom from Tech Frustrations.
Comments are encouraged below.
Do you have any Tech Frustrations? If so, tell me about them on the Tech Frustrations web site.
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“Eighty percent of success is showing up.” -- Woody Allen
Earlier this week an NPR “Hidden Brain” story about women in the workplace caught my attention after a friend tagged her daughter in the Facebook comment string. I added a comment to the “conversation” and since one person “Liked” it, I feel compelled to expand on the topic here. (Yeah, it doesn’t take much to encourage me ;) But before I start, let me be very clear; these comments are targeted at people who want to help women achieve parity in the workplace and people who may also think that a scarcity of women in STEM fields is a Tech Frustration. If you don’t share these concerns, stop reading right now. (Further reading will not only be a complete waste of your time, it might even make you angry.)
For the last two and a half months I have not worked outside the home. In fact, I've hardly worked inside the home. My kids are adults, and my husband is super helpful. So I’ve had a lot of free time on my hands. Time for fun, time to think, and time to do some really fascinating stuff like clean the piano keys. It’s made me realize that working is hard. Raising kids is hard too. And working while raising kids is even harder. Was it harder than staying home and raising kids? I have no idea. That wasn’t my experience, so I can't comment.
But that NPR story got me thinking. That and the realization that we (in the US) might have a woman president for the first time. These things have me thinking about women in the workforce and women in leadership positions. Since I was one woman in one workplace (at a time) for over 30 years, I can share one perspective.
I didn’t think much about being a woman in the workplace for the first 25 years of my career. There were too many other things to think about at work like providing value to customers, profitability, and deadlines. Plus I got my degree in computer science at a time in the 1980s when women were flocking to the field. When I was in high school, nobody told me that women weren’t supposed to be good at math. (I think I learned that somewhere between calculus and differential equations.) I spent the first 25 years of my career intensely focused on meeting customer needs and giving very little thought to how my gender might be determining my opportunities and/or pay. It wasn’t until I got involved in some volunteer work trying to attract and retain women to STEM careers about five years ago that I thought much about women in the workplace. And now, since leaving my job recently, I’ve had lots more time to think about it … and everything else :)
I worked in high tech. There were women, but not a ton depending on the functional area (e.g. marketing, R&D, operations, finance, support). One subtle obstacle faced mostly by younger women is that their commitment to the work is often questioned … either consciously or unconsciously. And rightfully so since women opt out of the workforce at much higher rates than men in the early years of their careers. An important component of helping women achieve parity in the workplace should involve encouraging them to participate in the workforce. As long as women drop out of the workforce at higher rates than men, their commitment to the work will be questioned more often. That’s basic statistics. This reality can lead to fewer opportunities for and fewer investments in women. Shouldn’t we raise our daughters with the same expectations we have for our sons when it comes to working? Shouldn’t we teach them to work through work frustrations instead of avoiding them? Why is it OK for a woman to opt out? Are women better off in the long run when they leave the workforce? (These aren’t rhetorical questions, I really want to hear what you think.)
One thing I do know is that when women drop out of the workforce at higher rates than men it causes the women who stay in the workforce to have to work harder to convince “the system” that they’re in it for the long haul. The burden of proving that women deserve the same opportunities as men, is borne by the remaining women. (Sheryl Sandberg does a great job of addressing this issue in her very successful book Lean In which I highly recommend.)
So … let’s start instilling the same stamina expectations in our daughters that we instill in our sons when it comes to work. This may create a whole ‘nuther problem; not enough jobs to go around. I know one smart guy who thinks that we already have more workers than we need. But that’s a topic for a whole ‘nuther blog.
What do you think? Is there anything wrong with raising expectations of our daughters? Or maybe we should change our expectations for both our sons and our daughters when they become parents? Times are changing. What are your suggestions?
Do you have any Tech Frustrations? If so, tell us about them on the Tech Frustrations web site.
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This week, while I was in Motown of all places, a woman told me a story about how expensive it was to replace (or was it repair?) her car key fob. You know what I mean, it’s one of those “keyless entry remote control car key fobs” that has buttons to lock your car doors, unlock them, and open your trunk. It also has a button that makes it super easy to accidentally set off your car alarm. (Gotta love that button which would be useful in an emergency. But more often, thankfully, it simply enables me to practice resolving a Tech Frustration while under pressure.)
Within minutes of returning home from my trip, my husband said, “Remember how we’d lost one of the key fobs to my car? Look what I got on Amazon for $16.00!” Then he tossed me a new key fob that looked exactly like the original. See for yourself. Apparently there are a number of companies that will replace key fobs for way less than your local car dealer will charge you. My husband paid $10.00 for the new fob and $6.00 for shipping. He received it pretty fast (4 days), and after it arrived all he needed to do was some quick “programming” which required him to follow short written instructions while sitting in the driver’s seat of the car. It’s working like a charm.
If you’re looking for a new fob for your car, simply search for “wireless key fob” at Amazon.com. Make sure that you have the fob part number which is listed on the back of your original fob and match it with the product description listed on Amazon.com. Want to see one? Here’s an example.
Key point: Sometimes it’s easier than you think to unlock a Tech Frustration ;)
Has technology ever frustrated you? If so, tell us your story on the Tech Frustrations web site.
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“You could have seriously injured yourself! If you put too much air in a tire it will blow up! You could have blown the tire!” That's what the young man at the gas station told me at about 9:00 pm on a warm summer night after I told him what had just happened.
Before my husband had gone out of town he told me, “Watch the air in your tire. I think you may have a slow leak.” Well … that’s what I thought I heard him say. He claims that he was a little more specific about which tire I should be watching. But details aside, on my way to the airport to pick him up, and thinking I was really on top of things, I pressed the “Info” button on my steering wheel to check the pressure in the tires. I had no idea what the numbers should be, but the fact that “LR” had a lower number that the others (LF, RF, and RR) seemed to indicate that the “Left Rear” tire needed air. Right?!
Had I ever put air in a tire? Not that I could remember, but how hard could it be? My only concern was that I was wearing white pants. Still, I was confident I could do this, and I thought I could do it without getting dirty if I was careful.
I found a gas station. I found the air hose. And I got some quarters. Then I went to work putting air in the tire. After numerous injections, and no change at all in the tire pressure indicator on my dash, I concluded that this was going to be a more challenging task than I’d expected, and that I might need to put a little more muscle into the effort. Long story short, while the “LR” pressure number wasn’t changing, I happened to notice that the “LF” pressure had sky rocketed. At least I was able to stop worrying about whether or not I had a reasonable amount of strength for a 54 year old. And thankfully my degree in computer science paid off in the moment. (Programming requires a great deal of logic after all.) It became obvious to me that the “LR” and “LF” indicators were swapped. I was pretty proud of myself for figuring this out, so when I went back into the gas station to get more quarters, I told the guy behind the counter what had happened. That’s when he sort of yelled at me. When he was done, I informed him that I hadn’t intentionally put myself in harm’s way. I was actually trying to stay safe ... and clean!
As I walked back to the car, I carefully inspected the tires. It turns out that if I had just looked at them in the beginning, I’d have known which one needed air. But honestly, it never occurred to me to do that. I got so caught up with the technology that I forgot to use common sense! So … I quickly let air out of the Left Rear tire (indicated as "LF") and added it to the Left Front tire (indicated as "LR") and went on my way.
After my husband’s plane finally landed, and I told him the story, he told me that he’d recently had the tires rotated on my car (thank you, dear), and that they must not have reset the indicators. He sort of implied that "one" might have considered that option earlier in the process when it appeared that I wasn't getting any air into the tire. Well, I’m here to tell you that I have no idea how those indicators work, it never entered my mind that it was even possible for them to get messed up, and just thinking about it enough to write this story bores me to tears. If I’ve only got 100 years on this earth, the less time I spend thinking about tire pressure the better.
I like technology, but on that warm summer night, it did me no favors. Thankfully this story has a very happy ending; my white pants never got dirty.
Has technology ever frustrated you? If so, tell me your story on the Tech Frustrations web site.
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