1660238328261 Jimmontague0609

Look outside traditional habits, procedures

Feb. 2, 2021
Chores build character, but inefficiency doesn't. Perceiving new tools can free us

Because we multi-cellular creatures must eat, drink, breathe and dispose of waste, I've always been a bigger fan of those who produce and maintain the infrastructures of survival than I am of those who manage, strategize or conceptualize. Getting things done and cleaning up after is more useful and honorable than appearing to do it. I like farmers better than facilitators.

Likewise, I'm grateful for the engineers and system integrators I've covered over the years. Too often—make that always—they labor in obscurity and are invisible. That is, they're unseen and un-thought-of until a crucial process breaks down, delivery flows stop, and howls go up from all those who took these essential producers entirely for granted just a few minutes earlier.

Of course, we've all been dealing with a slightly larger, more serious and longer-lasting interruption lately. For almost year now, the COVID-19 pandemic has traumatized and severely worn down almost all consumers, families and producers worldwide—not to mention the heroic healthcare providers and their long-suffering patients and families. The pandemic has reprioritized and stressed everyone, and thrown the former relationships of producers and consumers into stark relief. Packaged necessities and digital interactions are in; crowds and in-person entertainment are out.

Consequently, it's been back to basics for everybody. Luckily, I'm still a fan of mowing lawns, washing dishes and doing many other chores and repairs by hand. Beyond the intrinsic value of simply getting whichever job done, I think they also build character, maintain humility and provide the comfort of ritual and meditation.

However, this doesn't mean I'm in favor of drudgery for its own sake. Inefficiency is no good either, and destroys concrete gains in the present and, even worse, prevents fulfilling potential in the future. However, it can be very hard to eliminate because we're so familiar and comfortable with "the devil we know" that we can't even see how or where it's holding us back, or perceive and practice with tools that could free us.

For example, while covering industrial networking, I learned that radio and TV static and dropped cellular calls still cause many potential beneficiaries to believe that industrial wireless won't work on their plant floors, even though today's wireless mesh networks are highly reliable.

Similarly, I think many potential users believe that programming today's devices and software still means manually typing in complex code, when it's actually point-and-click, and reusing libraries of function blocks, Docker container, apps and other chunks of software that have proven they're useful and successful. I know it's no accident that many sources I interview keep organically talking about JavaScript Object Notation (JSON) lightweight format for storing and transporting data, Node-RED flow-based development tools for visual programming, and the Python general-purpose, interpreted programming language that lets users define types using classes.

Just as movies, radio, TV, PCs, Ethernet, Internet, smart phones, cloud computing, lattes and yoga pants were nowhere before they were suddenly everywhere, many of these software tools have been available for years, but are only recently reaching critical masses of acceptance and adoption because enough users are realizing they're worth learning and using due to the huge benefits they can provide.

All that's needed for these crucial transitions to happen—or for any useful innovation to be adopted—is to have each potential user look just slightly outside and beyond their traditional habits and procedures. However, it's fiendishly difficult to peer around blinders if you're not even aware they're in place. 

For instance, it's always been vital for caregivers to care for themselves, so they can provide better assistance to others, but it's even more important now. However, if we've always directed caregiving to others, and maintained systems and operations outside ourselves, then we may not see and recognize what we need. We just have to look for it, and practice a little.

About the author: Jim Montague

Sponsored Recommendations

Measurement instrumentation for improving hydrogen storage and transport

Hydrogen provides a decarbonization opportunity. Learn more about maximizing the potential of hydrogen.

Get Hands-On Training in Emerson's Interactive Plant Environment

Enhance the training experience and increase retention by training hands-on in Emerson's Interactive Plant Environment. Build skills here so you have them where and when it matters...

Learn About: Micro Motion™ 4700 Config I/O Coriolis Transmitter

An Advanced Transmitter that Expands Connectivity

Learn about: Micro Motion G-Series Coriolis Flow and Density Meters

The Micro Motion G-Series is designed to help you access the benefits of Coriolis technology even when available space is limited.