I just returned from the American Bar Association Equal Justice Conference. I felt a bit agitated. I guess that’s the right word. It’s a feeling I always get at the end of several days of exchanging thought-provoking ideas and discussing new ways to look at our work.
I lean slightly toward the techno-geek side of the spectrum. Some of you don’t know that. Many of you laugh that I felt I had to articulate that.
I favored sessions at the conference that covered technology and legal services delivery. It makes me crazy to see the astounding things that my colleagues are doing to advance access to justice through innovative tech. I always hope some of their passion will rub off on me, and that maybe some fantastic innovative process will suddenly map itself out completely in my brain before I leave. But, as I always say, I’m not real bright, but I can lift heavy things which, is to say, it may take me a while to figure something out, but my real talent is perseverance.
One of my colleagues– Eve from Iowa, I think– said to me, “I hate it when they say, ‘Everyone loves tech except when it doesn’t work.'” I nodded my head in agreement, mumbled a bit about “those people”– you know, the ones who sigh when you want to explain how innovation might help them in their work.
With Eve by my side in the conference exhibit area, I drew some coffee from one of the nearby urns into my cup, turned and nearly launched myself into a table with several toasters and bagels. You’d think all the time at the gym would make me less clumsy.
The shiny chrome toaster got me thinking.
When the toaster was first introduced, lots of folks got upset with it. Sure, you could toast your bread most of the time, but you often scorched your thumb or burned the toast, or maybe you couldn’t get the damned thing to pop the toast up. Did folks throw their toasters out the window? Well, maybe one or two highly passionate folks did so, but the larger population hung in there, made adjustments and on most mornings, got their bread toasted pretty much the way they wanted it.
Some of us remember “going into the city” in our childhood. In many of the stores and businesses, your elevator ride was managed by someone hired by the business to push the buttons for you, open and close the door and call out the floor number- often telling you what you’d find on that level. Elevator operators were around for a very long time. I do miss those days. I have a hard time reading the floor numbers on the elevator buttons and frequently I step off on the wrong floor. I’m not alone on that, right?
The hula hoop hopped onto the popular culture screen in the late 1960s. It was a new kind of amusement. You could thrust and roll your hips much like one does when… nevermind. It was innovative: light, plastic and colorful, and you could either be the hit of your neighborhood or drop to the floor in pain. The hula hoop is still around, embraced by many, and thank gawd for ObamaCare.
The advent of air conditioning gave rise to the modern southern city. Talk about your innovation, air conditioning has saved us from flies and humidity and has enabled us to look good under any hot, bright lighting. Sure, multitudes of us whine in meetings because “it’s tooooooo collldd,” but the reality is, we would never want to live without it.
The moral of these meanderings? When it comes to innovation, you may get burned. You, too, will have your ups and downs. And you most certainly will get bent out of shape at some point. But you will use the innovation. It’s all cool.