How well do you know the Tool you have?

Yesterday, I wrote about having the right tool for the job, and later on, via Twitter @thinkip bring to me the next question: How well do you know the tool you have?

This is an interesting question, that for a lot of people I know, the answer is: ‘not much’. That it is exactly the reason they need to get the new tools, the powerful ones. Most of the real power users I know, use old machines, not because they can’t afford new ones, but because they know there is more horse power left under the hood of the current machine.

To this day, I am always impressed how little people understand about Microsoft Windows, the operating system most likely they spend all day, or if you wish, how people can’t type, considering that they spend most of the time sitting in front of a keyboard and typing most of their day.

Knowing your tools is key in order to be able to define if you need more or less of them, if you need more or less power, for example, I have been a big proponent for people to upgrade to Windows 7, not because I think is great, but because is faster and run better on older machines than Windows XP or Vista. Most people I know, don’t need a new computer, they just need more Memory Ram, guess what, people will get a computer, because the one they have is slower. The reality is that if the old machine is old enough, will have more memory, what they need to begin with.

I understand that the reason this is reserved to a few, is simple, there is a whole industry to keep alive, that was part of the reason Microsoft, force a lot of us to upgrade machines for Windows XP and Vista, the reason new and more powerful video cards come every three months, the reason game makers are looking for new and more powerful machines, and the reasons technologies like Display Link are coming to disrupt everything, with that technology, you don’t need more power, their technology is design to expand the possibilities of your current machine.

Let me clarify, that the geek in my heart is not saying ‘do not upgrade’, don’t be fooled, I love a shinny gadget, and have bough my fair share of toys that end up in eBay, goodwill or in the hands of a lucky person, from iPods, to NetBooks, and a lot of junk in between… What I am saying is that in order to know if a tool will work, you need to know how to use it.

I was a mac user until 2004, at that time, I got a job selling PC software to Latin America. Virtualization wasn’t really possible, you could run stuff, but there were not real power, so I got a PC, the shinny object then, a Tablet PC. I love my tablet, use it for years, and finally sold it to a person in 2010 that to this day he is using it. (It was running Windows 7, the best OS that machine ever had). I Try to jump back to the Mac in 2007, and because, Mac OS had change so much in three years, (and the poor planning on my side) I end up going back to a PC and trying again the change to the Mac until 2008. The reason I failed to move from a PC to a Mac in 2007 was simple, I didn’t know or understand the tool. My knowledge of the tool was four years old. If I move to a PC tomorrow, (unlikely, really unlikely) I will need to begin to learn again Windows, but if the next Version of Windows ship, that will be know a key component of my success, since my knowledge will be so Windows 7 (or old knowledge if you prefer), I will be able to function, but to be fast and proficient,I will need to learn How to operate in Windows again.

I remember when I got my first iOS, an iPhone first generation. I was coming from a Palm Treo, that I could use with my eyes closed, the change was hard. For a while I carried both, the Treo and the iPhone, took me learn how to use the iOS to leave my Treo behind. If I decided to migrate from the iPhone (Highly unlikely too) the first thing to to is to learn to use the new device, the new tool.

In a production environment, (and you are in one, even if you haven’t noticed) you can be only as fast as the bottle neck or weakest link, the bottle neck is Always the Slowest part of the machine, type 25 words per minute, that’s your bottle neck, learn to type 45 to 60 and you will discover a new bottle neck, is for that reason that David Allen says: “The Better you get, the better you’d better get”, a quote that I really love. In case that you are not aware of the last idea, the idea that you are a production environment, the great Peter Drucker defined you as a knowledge worker, but what you are is a production unit or environment, regardless if you work for a small one person firm or a fortune 1000 you are a production unit, and the more you know your tools, the better you do, the more smoothly and efficient is the production.

I share in this blog before, that I was going to ditch my iPad, until my friend suggested that I should instead of complaining about how bad was my on-screen typing, learn to type. I download the software, and have been practicing daily. I am not typing as fast as I can type on the physical keyboard, but guess what I am typing over 50 words per minute, and improving. Also guess what, since I am learning to use the tool better, I am working mostly exclusively in the iPad, but I can work now anywhere. I am not carrying the external keyboard, and I am not feeling that I am loosing productivity, on the contrary, I am more productive, because I can work really anywhere carrying only the IPad, I don’t need the MacBook, or the External Keyboard, and I am typing fast enough that I don’t feel I am wasting my time.

Knowing the tools you use, is key for productivity, doesn’t matter if you are a writer, a sales person or you design machinery. The better you understand your tools, the more efficient you can be with them, and the more you know them and the more you understand them the better transition you can do when/if you choose to change them.

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