What Makes Us Happy
We used to be happy when the video didn’t tear and the audio didn’t echo.
We breathed a sigh of relief when a video class or a meeting started ON TIME without tech problems.
We used to be satisfied with the novelty and eye-contact that “moving pictures” brought to meetings.
It’s not enough any more. It’s not enough that the video is clear and the sound is good. It’s not enough that collaboration tools work as-promised.
Now, we have to be sure that the CEO looks good on video. Now, the agenda for a meeting is equal parts agenda and “stage management.” Now, a video call is as much a performance as it is a means of communication.
To put it another way, video communication in business looks so much like television that our brains, at some level, think they’re the same thing. When our eyes see an image on a video monitor, we instantly expect a “broadcast quality” experience. In the name of technological progress, business communications has entered a realm that our personal and entertainment worlds have lived in for years – small and large screen performance.
It’s really not fair. Honestly, it’s not. Through technology progress, we thought that we were merely improving on the telephone call, increasing productivity, and all that. But what we’ve really done is to bring collaboration so close to TV and movies that our brains have difficulty separating them. The consequence is that when we see the CIO, CFO, CEO, CblahblahOh on a video call we are silently (or not so silently) judging them alongside the performances of James Taylor, President Obama, the Mad Men and Lady Gaga. And how do they compare? Not to be obnoxiously rude, but the “talking head” of a Fortune 100 corporation rarely holds the attention and imagination like <insert name of your favorite performer>.
Am I setting an outrageously high bar for folks who aren’t even “performers?” That’s not the way to think about this. If they’re a good C<anything> then they are intrinsically performers. Any time they’re leading their team, any time they’re in front of an audience of any size, there’s not much difference between them and Green Day, and they know it. Good leaders with any title are the same way.
In legal circles, it’s no different. When in court, attorneys work with their Trial Presentation Specialist – one who brings audiovisual expertise into the court room – to prepare documents, PowerPoint presentations and videos that appear on the jury’s big projection screen. Attorneys are story-tellers and know that this is a performance. Even if the courtroom drama isn’t as intense as when Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, when there’s AV involved, the split-second timing of the attorney’s narrative and the appearance of images on the screen – when done right – elicits a strong emotional response from the jury (“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, when the accused left the grisly scene of the crime, this is what he left behind” – FLASH to a picture of a grisly crime scene). If the timing is off, the performance “dies” and the impact is lost (“Ladies and gentlemen, if the AV technology were working properly, you’d see an image of a grisly crime scene just now!” – the spoken version loses something without the pictures).
I’ve been captivated by some great presentations and I’ve sat through some real snorers. The funny thing is that it wasn’t the subject matter that was compelling or boring, it was the presentation. It was the performance. Great sales numbers can be shown on a spreadsheet that would put “Too Much Coffee Man” to sleep OR they can be presented in a way that tells everyone where their holiday bonus is coming from.
Same numbers. Different story. Different experience.
So, let’s cut to the chase here. Not too long ago, LDV Founder David Maldow and LDV CTO Ana Perez reviewed the telyHD Pro, in part, by using it for yoga practice. Without a doubt this goes beyond what most folks in the business community would do when evaluating such a product. The point is that they had some fun with it; they “kicked the tires” in a way that it might not have been designed for, and found a usefulness for it that wasn’t obvious. The ease-of-setup and ease-of-use freed their minds to be creative and have some fun.
That’s exactly where we are in the collaboration tools industry. Right now. Today.
This story repeats itself wherever technological innovation occurs. The first experience of the tech is that it’s expensive and tricky to work with. Over time it becomes easy enough for the non-technical, creative type to latch onto it and use it for her own purposes. Computer graphical design and visualization walked this path. Once relegated to university campuses or Industrial Light & Magic who could afford to buy high-end Silicon Graphics workstations, now off-the-shelf computer, purchased by an artist, becomes a tool for creative pursuits.
If it’s not obvious from what I’ve written so far, it is creative people who have an aptitude for technology – the techno-creatives – who lead the way at this fulcrum point of technical ease and creative genius. These are the pioneers who understand the technology, imagine new ways to use it, and then – to coin a phrase – “make it so.” After the technology becomes commonplace, artists can be on their own with it (one word: iPad) and the techno-creatives move on to the next emerging technology.
Rubber and Road Meet
There are real, practical, business actions to consider here.
- Human Resources: It’s no longer acceptable to hire technologists who are skilled at making collaboration technology work. You need at least one person with enough imagination and tech understanding to demand MORE out of, say, the deployment of a new webinar platform across the company. The deployment must include a continued, consistent and creative plan for usage and adoption; INCLUDING the internal marketing of success stories.
- Communication: Techno-creatives are a critical link between technology and those who use it because they are bilingual: They speak English and Geek and can translate between the two.
- Innovation: Do you want your company to be known for innovation or for following the innovation of others? There’s nothing wrong with following. Innovators pay a price for innovation that some others would just rather not pay. But if innovation is important to your business, techno-creatives are your bread-and-butter.
- The Wow Factor: This is related to “innovation”, since innovation often is the vehicle for a “wow”. It bears stating explicitly, though: a techno-creative individual or team is well-poised to create a big wow, as in, “Wow! I never imagined that was possible!”
I’ll say right now that I’m no expert in business but I’ve learned a lot about it. “Innovation” and “wow” are no guarantee that a company is healthy or is a good place to work. But I’ve been around enough to spot trends: Great collaboration tools, a 24/7-connected generation, the retirement of “the Old Guard” and the moving in of “Gen Y.” All these things signal a sea change. I say that it is techno-creatives who lead the way. So keep your eyes open – we’re only at the start of this roller-coaster ride!
Theo Economides is a techno-creative, and he’s not above rhapsodizing on the subject. Why don’t you invite him over for cocktails and lively banter?