The next slide in my series on how to suck at running a business, suggests getting comfortable with what you know…
Hands up who remembers Classic ASP? I do. It was our weapon of choice once upon a time. Classic ASP was Microsoft’s first server-side scripting language, first appearing in the mid-nineties. At the time, your main choices for building dynamic websites was that or the then new PHP. I had some previous experience with Visual Basic so ASP was what happened to be my next step.
We got pretty good at it too, we even built our own proprietary CMS which generated static HTML much is all the rage with tools such as Jekyll of late. What visionaries we were. We could turn around a new CMS’d site with all manner of features and customisations very quickly. And this was to become the problem. With so much invested in a particular platform I was reluctant to invest time looking at what else was out there.
Learning is hard. Once we graduate from academia, in which we are saturated in the learning process, we stop being spoon-fed what and how to learn. And then it’s easy to stop learning all together. Once you stop learning, it is very difficult to start again. So why would we want to learn something new when we are doing just fine with what we know? Starting from the beginning means being a noob again. All that hard work and experience gained getting to where we are now with what we know should not be so easily dismissed right?
Well no, the thing is starting from the beginning, while tough, is absolutely what you should be doing. As much as possible. For us, playing it safe and keeping with what we knew, led to our falling behind. Classic ASP was superseded by .Net, then .Net 1.1 then 2.0 all the while PHP was blowing up and projects such as WordPress and other CMSes were evolving far beyond our own humble efforts. Soon, our dependence on such an old unfashionable tech was losing us business and the limitations of what we could build were dwarfed by the possibilities of other options.
Learning to learn
Having recognised the problem, ever since we have nurtured a learning culture at Moov2. At first this was hard and learning new technologies was a slow and cumbersome process. However it has now become one of the most enjoyable aspects of what we do and is now a much easier and faster process. Through blogs, Twitter, conferences and meetups we keep on top of the latest buzz and make a point of experimenting with the most compelling projects. The more you do the more transferable your skills become. You will also often pick up new tricks during learning you can apply to your old tools and revisit your assumptions. Continual learning eventually makes the learning process much quicker and you can pick up new technologies and evaluate their effectiveness much more efficiently.
The digital landscape moves at an astounding pace and it can be very overwhelming. The panic of not keeping up with everyone else is something I know most in our industry have felt at some point or another. It’s easy to see a boatload of different technologies, frameworks and best practices being talked about all around and just want to bury your head in the sand through fear of not understanding it all. But the thing to be mindful of is no one understands it all. You’re actually following a load of different people all playing with different things and feeling like you should be doing them all. Just do something, pick the most interesting thing to you and learn that. Then if there’s something else have a look there. Learn what you can and don’t fret over what you’re not. Be aware of it but as long as you’re always picking up something new you’re improving.
The fact there is so much going on in our industry is something to be enjoyed not feared. There’s something for everyone, be that a new tool for expressing creativity or a some newly discovered optimisation to eek out another few milliseconds of performance.
Don’t worry about what you’re not doing just keep playing, learning and enjoying what you do.