Maybe it doesn’t matter, or can’t matter. After years of recession it may be the last thing on your mind. You, your clients, and partners may have just spent the past six years on survival. Or perhaps you’ve been able to work in a circle that didn’t have to struggle this time, or you changed or grew or found opportunity.
It may seem a strange question to ask. We’re not curing cancer, although some of you may be helping to build infrastructure for those who do. I’m asking because someone asked me this week why your work was important. Obviously it’s important to your livelihood and those who depend on you and hopefully they thank you for riding into the fray and you thank them back for their efforts. There is a lot of just plain hard work going on.
But I had to answer the question and so first I thought about individuals. I see a lot of passion for science, because I talk to engineers. Whatever problems are placed in front of them, the good ones have whatever fortitude it takes to stare down the chaos and bring order to a technical problem or to a project. I meet people who love the teamwork of our industry. I can think specifically of site installers who feel an obligation to their teammates and who can pull things off on the fly, pushing through the inevitable clusters and disappointments of site to deliver something that actually works—people who can handle being accountable to realtime results when there is nowhere to hide.
So that’s part of the answer. The ability to work honorably in difficult situations sets a tone that is important to human sanity. In my experience, good AV people are extra good at staying calm and competent when other people are flailing. It’s also important to help advance technology, both as engineering science and as something that helps other disciplines such as education, medicine, or commerce function better. Inventing things is what the human brain was made to do, for better or worse.
The other part of the answer is that our work is important because when it’s done right, it improves communication and facilitates connection among people who are themselves trying to do something of value. That’s quite powerful. That requires understanding why a client’s work is important. What are they doing that matters to others?
I know that often pro AV is undervalued and honestly, I know that many projects come about in imperfect and even cynical ways. That’s probably not going to change anytime soon, if ever. Lots of things are undervalued, maybe even most things, other than celebrity and gossip. Often it seems that there’s never enough money/value allocated to AV to do it right. AV may never get what we deserve, but we definitely won’t unless we operate from knowing why we matter to other people’s lives and to the work they also struggle to do.