Disrupt Your Own Industry
I have a good friend who works in the field of aerospace. Not only is she part of a complex high-technology organization that does a lot of its work in secret, she has an obscure job in a convoluted department in an enormous corporation of that industry.
We get together and she talks about her work and she might as well be speaking to me in Chinese. I care about her, so I listen and nod, or groan and gasp, whenever I think I should. There are lots of forms and lots of acronyms, but I really have no idea what she’s talking about. I focus on her face and expressions, but what I hear is that voice from Charlie Brown.
Every industry creates these traps where the people within that particular profession use special words and phrases that make sense to them, but not to anybody else. Every field of study or service has a collection of ideas and understandings that are the tenets of their work, but mean nothing to an outsider.
As a journalist, I have often taken on the task of translating the jargon and the dogma of specific industries from the government to manufacturing and even religion. I’m a writer and I have my own set of specialty words: lead, source, word count, rim, cap and pull. But journalism isn’t rocket science, so it’s easier to pick up on the meanings.
The parking industry is a complicated entity and parking technologies are applied in an enormous scope. There’s every reason for members of the industry to form their own language as they create products and define their work.
But it’s easy to confuse the user with information and processes that seem simple to an insider. And it’s even easier than that to settle in to familiar patterns, actions and decisions. Combining the knowledge of an insider and the perspective of an outsider is how you come up with new ideas and create long-lasting success.
As someone outside the industry, I look at parking technology in terms of how it can make my life better in some key areas.
I want parking technology to make it easier for me to pay for parking. A smartphone app for reservations and payment is a great tool, and I’d use one if it fit my parking needs. But because I park in a variety of settings from urban to suburban, this kind of parking app is too focused for me.
On a weekly basis, I park for free, use a meter, and spend a few hours in parking structures that offer payment options including a parking attendant, pay and display and pay on foot.
In any setting where I pay to park, I want technology to cater to my needs and my understanding of the payment devices. I want simple interfaces and clear directions. If I could have anything, it would be a standardized format for paying for parking – something that would look the same in Los Angeles or New York.
Besides a familiar format, I want perceptible evidence that my credit card data is secure.
I know every parking technology provider has its own style and specialty, but the user’s experience is best supported by consistency.
Another area where parking technology has an impact on my life is in the way it respects or injures the environment. I’m talking about waste and pollution. The materials used in parking technology vary, and though many are durable, few are renewable.
I’m interested in technology that makes concrete and asphalt that are easier to repair than replace. And light fixtures that last a long time and don’t poison small animals when they deteriorate.
I’d like to see parking technology that protects the environment on the front end and back end of the installation - whether it’s a meter, garage, or entry gate. I support an approach that protects the environment during construction and during the inevitable destruction.
Finally, as user, I want parking technology that makes parking easier. Technology that tells me where parking can be found in a busy garage is helpful. Whether it’s in the form of an electronic chart or lights that lead the way, I need to know where to go.
I dream about an app that outlines the parking available in different cities. It would offer a comprehensive map with the locations of parking structures, lots and street spots. I’d use it at home and I’d use it when I travel. I’d pay for this app.
It’s easy for an industry to become overly entrenched in its language, ideas and intentions. But an open approach and a willingness to question the status quo are just as important as experience and education.
Disruptors don’t have to be outsiders - they can come from within an industry.