Embracing Creative Destruction

As a “knowledge worker” and a “creative”, I face an ever-present yet hidden dilemma – What makes me marketable today could slowly make me unmarketable tomorrow.

In other words, both my productivity and effectiveness are the output of my daily work routines, but those same routines can, over time, sabotage my career if they fail to adapt with an ever-changing world. Additionally, it’s my sole responsibility to identify which routines are outdated, and predict which could be down the road.

For example, back around 2009 I was making a switch from Flash ActionScript 2 to 3. I recognized that to stay current in my field of work I needed to learn the (then) new and improved software language despite a steep learning curve. I read books, tinkered with code, and eventually changed how I worked to keep myself current. Fast forward to today, and I haven’t touched ActionScript in years because Flash is completely outdated.

Did I make a bad decision and invest time and effort in the wrong area? Not really. I just had to pivot twice. First, to learn a more robust coding language, and then only a couple years later, abandon it completely along with the rest of the world (thanks Steve). Along the way, I learned a lot about concepts like object oriented programming that I am still able to apply.

The challenge for all of us with similar soft skill based careers is to resist complacency and intentionally change the way our work gets done to stay current. Jason Fried passionately describes this process in this 99u presentation video:

”Fall madly out of love with something that you are so use to doing that you can’t imagine doing any other way… Look for opportunities in the things that you do to blow them up and start all over again.”

So then, what is a good indicator our methods are growing stale? Jason’s answer is the point when we would no longer want buy what we are producing. Or put another way, when we wouldn’t want to be our own customers.

Getting paid to produce work that I wouldn’t want to consume is a difficult position to avoid an eLearning developer. I have strong disagreements with the status quo of how online training is produced, yet don’t always have the luxury of time and buy-in to go against the grain.

Yet I firmly believe the learning and development industry, despite often having one foot dragging near obsolescence, has the potential to be something amazing that enriches people’s lives rather than waste their time. Which is all the more reason, I feel a personal responsibility to continually adapt to change, and strive to better myself and my methods of getting what’s worth doing done.