Creative Manager – A balanced approach to implementing new software

The VCR at my parents house was always flashing 12:00. After a power outage, or with the seasonal clock changes, all other clocks were adjusted, but never the VCR. Neither Mom nor Dad wanted to deal with the thing, but for quite different reasons. Their divergent attitudes towards hardware, reminds me very much of attitudes I have seen in regards to adopting new software.

Mom is the classic tech-phobe. She’s wary of breaking something, does not find any gadget really intuitive, and is loyal to the tried and true equipment she has established familiarity with – such as her watch, her radio, gardening and knitting tools. Dad is into tech but quickly gets agitated if he does not have it figured out immediately. He would tear my head off for not reading directions first, but did not think the same “rule” applied to him.

Clearly neither Mom’s trepidation nor Dad’s bravado resulted in much. I’ve somehow emerged from this household with a more middle of the road approach.

1) Fear not. What’s the worst that can happen? Mucking around in a new bit of software can only result in more understanding. It’s highly unlikely you’re going to “break” anything, or do any irreparable damage. Perhaps you’ll even help push a product forward, or drive new topics on a user forum.

2) Read the instructions. Well – read some of them. In my experience, you’re less likely to get frustrated and give up if you have at least a set of expectations going in.

3) Be patient with yourself. Rome wasn’t built in a day, so why kick yourself for not understanding an entirely new product right off the bat. Set the pace that keeps you both interested and moving forward steadily.

4) Build a strong foundation. Much like in elementary school math, it’s better to start with addition, move to subtraction and so forth, rather than jumping from addition to algebra. Allow yourself time to get a firm understanding of the basics, so all knowledge can grow from there.

5) Ask questions. Companies such as Function Point offer not only support, but unlimited training as well. Take advantage of that. As one of the trainers, I welcome the questions – they keep me sharp, let me feel useful, and teach us what may need to be better laid out or documented.

My parents have given up the VCR but both have cell phones now – Mom never turns hers on. She’s great with the iPod though – and if she can learn something new, there’s hope for us all.

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