In a cold, punishing rain, only the brilliant flashes of lightning illuminate our hero, who stands at the entrance to the mysterious, forbidden jungle temple. Rain streams steadily from the brim of his battered leather hat and his fingers twitch on the handle of the bullwhip that hangs from his belt.
Is it the guy behind Da-Lite Man again, dressed in yet another superhero suit? No, it is the fearless adventurer Indiana Jones, the third most swashbuckling figure in the AV industry, after only Macgyver and whoever Da-Lite Man thinks he is this week.
Why Indiana Jones? Is he searching for the answer to the eternal mystery of unified communications? Is he seeking a golden idol that will (at last) give him trouble-free HDMI connections? No, he’s just there because I need him to make a point.
In my last column, I talked about the need to be technically adventurous on behalf of our clients, while avoiding the pitfalls that come with that role. And nobody — nobody — has taught us more about avoiding pitfalls than Professor Indiana Jones.
If you watch the movies carefully, you will find that Prof. Jones has a number of techniques for avoiding mortal danger while making his way through underground lairs, etc. I have studied all of the Indiana Jones installments as if they were the Zapruder film. (All of them except “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” which in my opinion does not count.) So, for those of you who have not invested time in the study of this critical skill set, let me give you my crib notes about the pitfall avoidance techniques used by our hero:
Use the natives.
If you don’t know the customs, and you don’t know the lay of the land and its potential pitfalls, the safest thing to do is to get allied with the natives. Indiana Jones never seems to have any shortage of well-meaning locals to send on ahead into the darkness. In our business, technologies are changing fast and are coming from a lot of different fields. So, in my own business, we have developed alliances with companies who specialize in telephony, security systems, and computer network security. While we are certified at appropriate levels for many of these skills ourselves, there are times when the inscription on that mysterious idol needs to be read by someone who understands the nuances of the language.
Know when the natives are using you.
There is a famous scene in “Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark” where Professor Jones and his Egyptian digging expert Sallah are looking down into a dark cavern called “The Well of the Souls.” They drop a torch into the darkness which reveals a writhing mass of serpents covering the floor. Sallah turns to our hero and says, “Asps. Very dangerous — you go first.” The moral of this story? If sending the natives on ahead into danger is a technique, beware when they do it to you.
Develop a longer reach.
If there is a tool of exploration that we associate with Indiana Jones, it is his braided leather bullwhip. He is constantly swinging from it, using it to knock the gun out of a villain’s hand, or just brandishing it menacingly. The whip is an effective tool for him in avoiding or fighting off danger because it gives him a longer reach than he would otherwise have. In our industry, that long reach comes from our associations, either formal or informal. Often, we need not make a critical mistake ourselves in order to learn from it, because someone, somewhere, has probably made that mistake already. One of the things I have kicked myself for more than once is that I have failed to ask allies in other parts of the world about something particularly dangerous before I attempted it myself.
You gotta love overkill.
Probably the best, and most surprising, scene in the original Jones film is the one where Prof. Jones is faced with an assassin wielding an enormous curved scimitar. No matter how old this movie is, I have never seen the audience fail to roar with laughter and applause when our hero drops the bullwhip, pulls a revolver, and shoots the assassin. This scene represents my favorite lesson in dealing with new technologies, which is to buy myself some headroom. Especially in areas where the technology is changing rapidly, it is a mistake to under-buy. If there are multiple projected “standards,” I look for a weapon that supports most or all of them. It is good to have a gun when the mysterious enemy appears with the scimitar.
In other words, preparedness and wariness go a long way toward allowing you to survive the pitfalls, and to “boldly go where no man has gone before…”
And, no, that’s not a mixed metaphor, it’s a segue….
(Catch you next month. –JRR)