Lessons from Marvel’s AVengers for the AV Industry

AV-Superhero-1214Tony Stark — Iron Man

Technology can make or break you. We learn that Tony Stark can invent anything and often invents things just because he can. Similarly, in the AV industry we implement technology for technology’s sake. From the comics and movies we learn that if we implement technology without fully researching it and without finding out the purpose behind the tech we end up in trouble. If we implement technology without researching the problems that it will solve then we are doomed to fighting the technology later. Eventually, Tony Stark (Iron Man) fights against some form of his technology (or at least in three of his movies and hints of it in the upcoming Avengers movie). In AV we find that when we implement new or unproven technology we end up fighting against it later. Think back to when you implemented a “leading edge” technology and you were left hanging in the field because the product didn’t support a feature you believed it supported.  You might as well have been fighting against Ultron.  Sometimes, leaning on proven age-old technology is the best route. “The old ways are the best ways.”

Captain Steve Rogers — Captain America

What makes Captain Rogers suitable to be Captain America? Was it size and skill? No. He had heart and determination. Our lesson for the AV industry is that the companies that stay true to their purpose and passion are the ones that stand the test of time. I also have to say that the secondary lesson that Captain America has to teach us is the importance of “shield.” When working in AV, the signals are much more susceptible to outside interference and shield(ing) is more important than in data. There is a lot more checksums and error correction in data than in AV. AV needs shield(ing) a lot more than data. So whenever there is a doubt (like Captain America) use your “shield.”

Thor — Son of Oden — The Right Tool for the Right Job

Sure, Thor only has a hammer, but it is the right tool for the job. In AV we can learn from Thor that we need the RIGHT tool for the job. We often skimp on tools and test equipment to save a dime and often spend a dollar later.  Ask your technicians and project managers to document the time wasted because they don’t have “The Crusher” (the translated name for Thor’s Hammer). You will be surprised to learn how much time and money you are wasting because you tried to save a dime in test equipment or fancy tools. Thor’s lesson is an expensive hammer is sometimes worth its weight in gold. As a side note, we could learn that one should expand their toolbox to include more than just a hammer. When you only have a hammer every problem looks like a nail. Thor addresses this problem by surrounding himself with team members that round out his tool collection (both on Asgard and when on Earth).

Bruce Banner — The Hulk — Might Means Right

When you have brute force behind you, how can you be wrong? There are some instances when knowing you have the strength of an entire industry behind you, you just know that you can do anything. From the Hulk, we can learn that the sheer size and strength of our industry is an attribute we often downplay. We tend to ignore the fact that we are a huge industry of incredibly knowledgeable professionals. If you look at the history of InfoComm you learn that it dates back to before 1939 and that AV has been around much longer than that. You also learn that there are over 10,000 CTS/CTS-I/CTS-D holders. The AV industry is a Hulk of an industry and when directed properly, “Hulk, will smash!”  When we consider that we have added Unified Communications and Collaboration to our skill sets and that we have the strength of the likes of Cisco and Polycom behind us, we are clearly the big green giant in this fight.  Of course it helps that Bruce Banner is also the world’s leading scientific researcher in his field.  We should learn that when we are not our giant alter ego, we can still gain the respect of everyone around us by being the trusted advisor and knowledgeable guy in the room about our subject area of expertise.  So I guess there are two lessons to learn here; knowledge is power and power is power.

The Role of S.H.I.E.L.D.

The two overall messages we can learn from Marvel’s AVengers for the AV industry is the value of balance within the team and the need for good leadership. As a team, the AVengers are unbeatable. Each member has their strengths and weaknesses and the team plays builds on the strengths of each member and covers each other’s weaknesses. The leadership that S.H.I.E.L.D. (Strategic Homeland Intervention Enforcement and Logistics Division) provides wraps the whole AVengers team together and allows each member to leverage their strengths while still working within the strategic plan of an overarching structure.  Even superheroes need purpose and direction that can only be provided by good leadership. Once leadership sets the direction and establishes the environment of success, they need to get out of the way and let the true heroes do the work.