Demystifying the ‘Tech Magic Wand’

Day 255: Magic Wand

Image by amanky via Flickr

Take a moment and think of when that one staff member comes running into your office for support. Their eyes are wide open, they seem to be a bit out of breath from the run to your office, and it is clear that there is a problem. They start explaining the problem to you as you walk with them back to their computer. They have tried everything that you have told them in the past to try. They have logged off and then logged back on. They have then logged off, turned the machine off, waited and then got back onto the network, but nothing is working right. You get to the computer and ask them to logon and – “Poof” – your presence has allowed all the magic to happen and the problem has been fixed without you even touching the keyboard.

This is the Tech Magic Wand.

Our users really believe that we have this tech magic wand. They may even think it is our aura or that we actually have a magic wand sticking in our pocket. And after all of this, the staff person can have a swarm of emotions, probably not all that conducive to liking technology any further. It makes your presence grow in mystic and mythicism. They begin to doubt what they have done and it can actually hinder moving technology forward with the end-user. They may even become more resistant to trying to resolve problems themselves or even revert to old methods. To the extreme, this can become the user that starts the rallying cry to go back to pen and paper.

After reading Switch and hearing Dan Heath speak about the Elephant and the Rider, I do realize that these emotions that the staff members are having are completely Elephant in nature. That Elephant has the strength in telling that staff person that you truly are magical and that they aren’t. So I believe in this instance, you need this staff person to feel that you aren’t magical. This isn’t about appealing to their Rider – they logically know that you haven’t wiggled your fingers and fixed the problem – but the Rider has lost control of the Elephant.

This is where I believe that sharing a story of failure is the key. It probably goes against our desires – no one really wants to admit when they have had bad things happened, but I truly believe that fails are great tools not only for learning, but for also showing others that you haven’t mixed up any magical potion that fixes computers when you are around.

While at the Nonprofit Technology Conference I had one of those moments that the technology got the better of me. Almost a classic #fail. As a tech person, a Tech Director no less, imagine if you were giving a presentation and the laptop you were planning on using would not register the projector? Now we all would probably just go to another laptop. Imagine that the second laptop is communicating with the projector, but the USB drive with the presentation is not being recognized by the second laptop. On top of that, the internet is pretty slow and once the presentation is downloaded via email, there is a protection error in the file and it won’t open up. Now you are the one in need of help – you need someone else’s magic. You – the tech person for your agency – the one who usually performs the magic – needs the assistance of someone else! The horror!

That was me.

But things worked out. The presentation got up and for the most part, except for my nerves being shot and some shuffling of slides in the presentation,I don’t believe this mishap impacted the session. Yet, still now, I admit during those moments, it felt bad.

But it is also good.

Good? How could this be good?

It has given me a tool to humanize me – to show staff members that things like this happen to me too. It shows that even though I might understand technology and work with technology – the machines sometimes get the better of me. This story appeals to their Elephant. It lets them know that they aren’t alone – they can feel that I have experienced the same thing that they have. Some might even feel empathy for what I went through while in front of all those people. It can open up a conversation and it helps to get their Rider pulling on the reigns of those emotional reactions of tech people having magic.

I don’t want to lose all of my magic – I do have tricks for making things work – but in the long run, that isn’t helping me and it isn’t helping them.


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