Openness and Vulnerability
I’ve seen some posts on Chief Delphi and a few comments in response to some of these blogs themselves in which folks have noted a new openness in communication from FRC. This change is deliberate. When I was asked to take on the role of Acting Director over the summer, I was told to not just behave as if I were a caretaker, holding things together for whoever would eventually be named as Director, but to act as if I were the Director – hence the title – working with the FRC Staff and other departments to make changes and try new things where we saw the need. I like transparency and a close connection with the teams, and the more open approach to communication is part of that. This seems to be well received – or at least, I haven’t heard any complaints about it yet.
But, there’s a downside, and that’s vulnerability. Being open means being more exposed. When I go in to detail about problems we have, I run the risk of blog readers thinking “Wow, FRC has lots of problems. I don’t want a slice of that pie.” Realistically, almost all blog readers are probably already FIRST folks who know the good far outweighs the bad in FRC, but the concern is genuine. I also run the risk of getting details wrong. Some of the stories we tell are complex, with lots of perspectives on the same event vying for attention. Or, depending on the tone I use in my writing, I could come across as too casual, when I’m supposed to be a serious-minded adult in a management position in FIRST. And I can guarantee you that, even if it hasn’t happened yet, at some point I’m going to tell you something is going to happen by a certain date, and it won’t, or that we’re going to solve a certain problem, and the cure will end up being worse than the disease. I’m sure there are other downsides as well.
Still, I think this is all worth the risk. I believe being willing to be vulnerable is part of living a fully engaged life. Underground bunkers are just what we need when bombs are actually falling, but they aren’t great places from which to reach the full potential of our true selves. In our broader ‘gotcha’ culture, in which every hint of something less than perfect can be pounced on, it’s easy to mistake a little rain for a reason to head underground, but I think that’s no way to live. When FRC teams are at events, they literally* are “in the arena”**, putting themselves and their robots out there for thousands to see, warts and all. That’s the way to do it. In FRC, I believe we celebrate trying new things, and even the mistakes that naturally go along with that, as long as we learn from those mistakes to make things better next time around.
I’ll blog again soon.
[Sidebar: I like openness in my technology also. I own an Android cell phone, which I’ve rooted and on which I’ve installed a custom ROM – not my own custom ROM, but one that someone else developed. I’m not breaking any laws, of course, but I did happily void my warranty. The other thing I like about my phone is I can pop off the back - no tools required - and slide in a freshly charged battery if I need to during those very long days at events. I can even add memory if I want. Without needing to buy a new phone. Though if I open up my phone at an event, I try to do so out of sight of iPhone users, otherwise it generally leads to tears J]
*Literally literally, not figuratively literally
** “In the arena”, from a speech by Teddy Roosevelt. Could be considered sexist when viewed through the lens of our modern sensibilities, but the speech was delivered in 1910, and if you substitute gender-neutral pronouns for the masculine pronouns where they appear, you should be good to go.