Sunday, May 31, 2009

When Planning Fails And Still Works Out

It's been a good couple weeks since I've gotten a chance to post, what with my Masters program picking up a real head of steam and several networking events that have had me out and about. So last night I was preparing for a short trip to Atlanta. I was making sure I had all the documents I needed, checking and double-checking to verify I hadn't done anything dumb. I was bringing a laptop with me, but seeing as the battery is no longer useful unless it's connected to a wall charging, I figured I'd stop by the electronics shop at the airport in the morning to grab me an airplane adapter to keep me powered all the way to Georgia.

Big Mistake.

Not thinking that it was a Sunday morning, I figured I could sidle my way into the airport expecting all commercial spots to be open and operating cheerily. What I probably should have done was go out and get the appropriate adapter yesterday when stores are generally open longer hours. So I get up to the mall-ish area at Sky Harbor's Terminal 4 hoping to be able to walk into the electronics store, only to be stonewalled.

Great. What now?

I had to use the time I'd have in the air to prepare for my meeting in Alpharetta, but now, before I even set foot on the plane, I'm looking at getting maybe forty-five minutes of time on a full yet bad battery...and that's with me squinting at the screen with the brightness turned all the way down and all non-essential hardware turned off in the OS.

I make my way through security, grab a quick breakfast at one of the eateries near the gate, and finally, get in that ever familiar line for my seat.


Then I remembered something. Last night during my preparations I had gotten an app called Readdle for my iPhone. I wanted to house a few documents on my phone and be able to display a few examples if at some point during the meeting someone wanted to see a demonstration. Perhaps the most essential feature of Readdle, and the major reason I bought it ($4.99 for a limited time on the App Store!) was because it can download and view documents of various types from the web and house them locally on the iPhone. As soon as it dawned on me that I might not need my laptop at all, I hurriedly open Safari and began browsing the internet for PDF files on the topics I needed to review. Never has being stuck in one of the last boarding groups been so inadvertently helpful. I opened PDF after PDF, porting them over to Readdle, and downloading. And before I even sat down to my seat on the plane, I had everything I needed again, without any worries about broken laptop batteries.

I was never so happy as this morning for having gotten a smartphone. My iPhone saved me in a way I hadn't ever previously thought it might. On the fly, when needed, I could access the web, find exactly what I needed, and download it. It was a situation I've never been in before, and I found it especially great because my phone was a contingency that came through even when my planned-for contingencies failed. Today's smartphones are uniquely powerful and impactful tools, and I was able to find a way to use it to improve performance I planned for via other means.

The reason I am sharing this small but important experience is for the performance aspect of the problem. Technology today allows us (given the right downpayment and two-year contract, sure) to solve problems in ways not previously considered. I see a very bright future where more people are able to solve problems as quickly as an iPhone, a 3G connection, and some knowledge and experience allowed me to today. A few weeks ago I blogged about GAZeL's mLearning event, and I took a lot away from it. Just a few short weeks later, I put many of the key points of that talk to great use in a very improvisational way. What is clear to me now is that as smartphones become more ubiquitous, WLP professionals are going to start having to think of their challenges in more novel ways, and see the untethered extensions of tethered technologies as a means for new solutions.

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