Not long ago I was asked by Jamie Thompson over at FireRescue1.com to write an article on fire suppression. While I wrote it a few weeks before, it published yesterday. But yesterday morning, before the newsletter with my article came out, I was reading the FireRescue1 article on the Chinese water cannon and this inspired my morning “message to the troops” to be about innovation and change. Of course, the point of my article was about innovation and change, so it was good timing.
I have been having some pretty in-depth discussions lately regarding change as related to technology. There are people who feel like all of this technology is overwhelming and distressing and changes should be avoided. There are those who think technology will solve all the ills of the world. And then there are many who see technology as being a useful tool that when applied to the right situation, can produce wonderful results, and conversely, be misapplied and create major disaster. Some think that there should be more emphasis on the basics, which would supplant the need for technological shifts. And there are those like me who see potential in these changes and wonder how we could harness the power of both to provide safer and more effective service.
While the water cannon discussion illustrates an interesting discussion on technology, the comments reflected several differing opinions, and while I noted that there was a lot of discussion about what it wouldn’t do, I only saw one serious commenter reflecting on what it might be able to do. Many think that innovation stops at invention. In fact, innovation can really be considered having a new birth there. Because once something is invented, there are usually a few individuals out there testing it, finding out its limits, and trying to envision what this new development might mean to them. And they tweak and refine and experiment, and then, voila, we have a new way of doing things.
Innovation has plenty of effect on your daily life, but you have to take some time and appreciate that effect, because we tend to take it for granted. How many things were invented that aren’t necessarily used for the original intent? In the fire service, we take things all day long and make them do things they probably weren’t designed to do (which isn’t always good). How much better would our organizations be if, instead of looking at the problems, we saw the challenges and rose to solve those issues instead? If we took into consideration the changes we have made and came up with ways to even improve farther on those ideas?
While honing our technique is desirable to improve performance, as one commenter on my article suggested, and he goes on to suggest that CAFS and other fancy things can’t overcome poor technique, I agree in part and principle. But I disagree on a different level, that is, from the aspect that if we have good technique AND technological improvement, we can have an exponentially beneficial effect on solving problems. Good technique AND good tools create a force multiplier.
Solutions for problems are all around us; we just need to take the time to find them. Knowing where we come from is important, because it helps us to understand where we want to be. But abandoning good technique for promotion of good technology is NOT the answer. The answer lies in both, and knowing that in order to improve our condition, we must take advantage of all of the opportunities that come our way, if not to stretch out from that point, to know that this is NOT the way to go. We all must experiment and learn and understand. But most of all, we have to be open to the ideas and see them with clear vision.