Thoughtware: Keeping Your Thinking System Updated

Over the course of your career, there may be times when you hear that a lack of new ideas within an organization is a liability. While all ideas are best framed within a context, this can often be the case, especially if the old ideas just are not working like they once did. This is why Steal this Idea is such an amazing program within ACUI. It reminds us of the importance of keeping up with our discipline, whatever your area of concentration might be.   

musiciansAs some of you know, I do technology. As all of you probably know, technology is continually changing. While this might be seen more in size, speed, and improvements over new functionalities within offerings, it still behooves me to keep up not only with the nomenclature of these technologies, but in thinking about the application of these technologies.

Roger Wyatt, a former professor of mine, called this “thoughtware.” While he was talking specifically about technology, I would submit that thoughtware can be likened to the playing of an instrument; i.e., your “chops.” The instrument, the device, is your hardware; the sheet music, the app, is your software; and how you play or improvise over the music chart is your thoughtware.

We build our thoughtware over experience just as a musician does over years of practice, training, and in playing with others. I have written of playing with others and collaboration as analogous to jazz music in previous posts on the former Commons site. In this, each member of the team is given the chance to solo within the given construct of the song or project. While playing with others we might learn a new riff or hear a familiar piece played in a new way. Our bandmates might also show us a new trick. This can be magic. This is thoughtware.

Reading articles, attending presentations or webinars, participating in our regional and annual conferences, community forums, email, phone calls, social media feeds, and the like all give opportunities for us to increase or update our thoughtware. I personally like to read publications outside of my area to “steal” ideas from them, ideas that can be modified to fit what I am working on.

For example, I might use chaos theory and the idea of self-organizing systems in defining how to best move people along for an event. I might read about using old transparencies that are laying around from when we still used overhead projectors to teach art students about color theory and come up with a way to use these as gobos with LED theatrical lighting which does not get as hot as incandescent lamps.  

So please steal ideas. Better, share your ideas. Read journals, participate in your local region. Do not be a professional liability…update your thoughtware.

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