“Stay in Your Box” and other Bad Ideas

box2I had an interaction the other day with someone else in the AV industry who was looking to collaborate on a blog.  This person was looking for some AV Industry folks to help provide content on a subject that I actually know quite a bit about and was eager to assist with.  I connected and to my surprise, was turned down flat.  I was a little taken aback honestly, I mean who besides my wife, family, friends, boss, and coworkers wouldn’t want my opinion?

When I inquired why, I was pretty much told to “stay in my box”.

I was initially offended, but quickly got over it, as I consider this person a friend and owe him a debt of gratitude for other events that have happened in my career.

That however does not change the fact that “Stay in your box” is probably one of the worst things to ever tell anyone to do.  It is dangerous on a couple fronts.

One, it typically stereotypes the individual based on their current role or company, and pays no homage to where they may have come from, or what type of work they may have done in the past.  Many people have had less than linear progressions in their work lives, and assuming that their perspective is narrowly focused on their current position is just naive.

The second is that many times, the lessons learned or principles applied in a different “box” are completely relevant to the new subject at hand.

I had the pleasure of meeting Andy Whitehead at SVSI sometime back, and he personifies this point.

Southern Vision Systems was in the business of manufacturing high speed cameras. They made products like GigaView that could burst high definition images at 750 fps.  That’s NOT a typo.  Their cameras would be used to take video of production lines or manufacturing plants etc, where high speed machinery would malfunction in some way, but where it moved too fast to see what was actually happening.  Their cameras could take a minute of high def video at 750 fps and transfer it via a gigabit ethernet port for review to assess the problem.  The product was best in class, and sold well, but for other reasons, the company didn’t attain the sales they had hoped.

They are now known as the premier manufacturer of Video over IP solutions, even supporting compressed 4k through a Gigabit switch or uncompressed 4k through SFP connectors on a 10G platform.  It seems that their high speed, high def camera days taught them more than a little about transferring large amounts of data over Gigabit ethernet connections.

They weren’t a historic manufacturer of video baluns.  They weren’t one of the “Trons” of the AV industry, yet they have done an amazing job at pioneering the AV over IT frontier.  Imagine if someone had told Andy Whitehead to “stay in his box” and leave video extension to the other guys.

This is just one example of which there are most decidedly many others.  You can’t invent anything new without stepping outside of the box, because the box that the new product fits into hasn’t even been created yet.

I have always argued that the main two traits needed to succeed are attitude and aptitude.  If you have the ability to think critically and learn coupled with the motivation to do something unique and different to solve a problem, then you will be successful in AV, IT, CE, whatever.

The only way we ever get true and newly innovative ideas is when people step outside of their “boxes” and bring new perspectives and relevant experience to create a solution not imagined before.  That is where innovation comes from.

So I will stay in my box, that is until the environment around me creates the ideas and thoughts that slowly crank the handle on the outside, building speed and momentum, and catapulting me out of it to the surprise of those around, only to land in new territory they never knew existed.