Disruptive Power of Change

Five years ago, on my podcast Digital Production Buzz, Michael Kammes was talking about disruptive technologies in media. At the time we were deeply in the middle of the transition between film, tape and digital media. Michael, who was then the Workflow Architect for Keycode Media, was dealing with this on a daily basis as we moved from physical media to files stored on hard disks.

The disruptive power of change; the phrase rang in my memory. If we thought the industry was in turmoil five years ago, the turmoil of change has become pervasive today.

Recently, at a presentation of the LA Creative Pro User Group, Randy Ubillos, the chief engineering architect for Apple Final Cut Pro and iMovie was asked to project the future of media.  Randy laughed and replied: “Faster, smaller, cheaper, better.”

Nowhere is this better illustrated than walking the halls of the annual NAB Show. Every year, we are surrounded by disruptive technology. Just off the top of my head, helicopters are replaced by drones, remote trucks by Tricasters, film cameras by cell phones… the list is endless.

Change is a two-edged sword. Gear is more affordable, but as more people own gear competition increases. An individual can be a “one-man band,” but client expectations now expect feature film effects on beer budgets. (Just because one person CAN do everything does not means that they SHOULD.) It is easier than ever to achieve amazing quality, but quality is devalued at the expense of meeting deadlines. Talent is expected, disrespected and never properly compensated.

“Faster, smaller, cheaper” is both a prediction and a curse.

Five years ago, this was news. Today, it is woven into the fabric of every day life. We can complain, but that won’t change anything; and it probably won’t even make us feel better.  So what do we do?

Over the next few months, I want to explore this subject in more detail. If the world isn’t likely to change, that means we need to change to keep up.  But how should we evolve?

It seems to me we need to do four things:

  • Accept the situation
  • Focus on our strengths
  • Build on our network
  • Pick a new technology to learn and master it.

The first step to growth is accepting the present. It may be fun to look back at the golden past, but that won’t help us today. The skills of setting up a 2” quad videotape machine are as valuable today as blacksmithing. Interesting to talk about, useless to make money on.

Next, stop thinking about all the stuff we are bad at and focus on the stuff we are good at. I’ve learned, over the years, that each of us tends to obsess about what we wish we could do well, and minimize what we actually do well.  I’ve always wanted to draw; but couldn’t. I’ve always been able to explain technical subjects to large groups of people, but never considered that much of an asset.

We need to focus on our strengths, because those are what potential clients will hire us for.

Next, continue expanding the network of people that know you. It is said that the people we know gets us our next job. This sounds good, but isn’t true. What is more accurate is to say that we will get our next job from people who know who we are AND what we know.  It isn’t enough to know that Mary is a great person. That won’t get her a job. What we need to know is that Mary is a great person AND she’s an After Effects whiz. Potential clients need to know who we are and what we know.

Finally, today’s world is defined by technology. Pick a technology you like – any technology – and master it. Become an expert. There is so much to learn that no one person can know everything. By becoming recognized as the leading expert in something, people will turn to you when they have questions or projects.

Technology is in charge today and as technology changes, we need to change with it. If we assume that our world will turn upside-down every couple of years, we can plan for the transition and master it the next time it comes around.

As always, let me know what you think.

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