Sunday, November 17, 2013

Its NOT What You Know

With computers It's NOT what you know.

With computers it's not about all that you know. It is not like the legal profession. It's more about how fast you can learn and, yes, also how fast you can forget. It's about knowing where to go to find out what's new, then replacing the old with the new.

That is because everything is changing so fast, and indeed has been changing that way for many years. You need to be able to put what you know aside and open up to a new way of looking at things and then do things that way.

My college had as its objective to have students put aside what they had learned up till then and rebuild from the ground up. That was liberal arts.

This came back to me recently when a resident asked for help learning to use a computer. She was 95 and had never used computer before. Worse, someone dear to her had given her a computer with Windows 8 which has NOT been well received by old Windows fans.

I spent an hour with her showing her what I knew of Windows 8 and then asked another resident to assist her further. By the time he got to her she had already mastered Windows 8 and was delighted with it. There had been nothing she had to unlearn.

That was an eye opener, just as much about learning to use computers as it was about Windows 8. (The barrier in Windows 8 is in trying to make it work the old way and not learning the new way.)

So it is not all about what you know as much as how fast you can learn. I recall that when I was a very young engineer, my boss, a head of personnel who had come up the hard way without a college education, recommended me to head up a project to convert the company to an IBM System. He had been unable to recruit anybody qualified.

Our Vice President called us in and asked me if I knew anything about computers. Of course I knew nothing and I said so. But then I said that they were so new that you could not find anyone with experience, and I was a fast learner. I got the job and soon two IBMers were teaching me 1 on 1 in how to implement systems.

Without any experience at all and no knowledge of it I was able to install major industrial systems. That forced me to learn all about cost centers and cost accounting, production control, quality control, inventory, and so on. It was a benefit not to know the old way in order to implement the new.

Thereafter, working in computers, I could never could find enough people with experience and knowledge about computer systems. I found I did not need them experience.

It was the same when the original computer developers of the ENIAC computer in Philadelphia had a secretary who wanted to do the technical work but had no background whatsoever. She was told that if she could learn assembler language she could become part of the team. Assembler is terribly terribly difficult. But she learned it and became part of the team.

Years later, when I was an IT director, I had to scrounge for people who could assist in converting a large operation to computers. I looked to people who could learn fast. Once I interviewed a woman who had never worked anywhere else except McDonalds. I gave her the typing test, and surprisingly, she passed it. She had trained herself as a touch typist. I asked her if she had a computer at home. She did. Then I asked her if she had ever had it apart. She had. She had trained herself all about it.

Here was a self trained self-starter. She was quite excited when she left the office with a new job and twice her former pay.

What you know can really get in your way as time goes by. You get wedded to a situation that no longer applies. Our McDonalds worker could have kept on at McDonalds.

Now that we have a technology which enables us to get information quickly we are no longer dependent so much upon what we can remember and we can deal even more effectively with change. So polish up your "forgettory" and get on with learning the new . Let your little tablet speed you on your way.

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