Aris Silzars Display Technology Consulting

DISPLAY CONSULTING

 

Technology.net...June 2000

Suppose that you have recently been asked to join a new project team developing a new display technology, but don't know all that you would like to know about the emission technology being implemented. Or what if you have joined a new start-up company and in your previous position you were required to sign a non-compete agreement so that you must now develop a somewhat different area of expertise? Or perhaps the large company where you have spent many years and where you expected to retire has decided to divest your business unit, and with each passing day the hallway rumors hint that the prospect of termination notices is becoming ever more likely. Or, in a more positive vein, suppose that you are making great progress and would like your colleagues to hear about your recent discoveries. In these and many similar situations what should you do?

It seems that our choices are limited and easy to enumerate. We can take the lone-inventor approach and try to solve all problems through our own creativity and brilliance. We can try to find someone else in our immediate project team who knows the answers we are seeking. We can enlarge our circle and try to search out someone with the appropriate expertise in our broader corporate organization. We can do an extensive literature and patent search. We can attend a technical conference or two. We can call a colleague at a university or at another company and seek his or her advice. We can contact product vendors or attend trade shows.

Typically we will do as many of the above as we think will help us find the answers we seek. That is as is should be, and that is where technical societies such as SID become of great value.

Imagine for a moment what our world would be like if there were no technical societies. There would be very few technical journals. There would be virtually no technical conferences, and consequently there would be no conference proceedings. There would be no membership directories to help us locate colleagues with common interests. There would be limited opportunities to share and discuss recent discoveries. There would be few seminars and specialized short courses. Perhaps some trade shows and advertising- supported magazines would still exist and maybe even try to increase their influence by publishing more scientifically important articles. But many of the most important sources of information on which we rely would either no longer exist or be much harder to access. Well, fortunately, we do have technical societies and we don't really need to worry about this peculiar scenario. Or do we?

Consider just a few more "what ifs." What if companies began to seriously restrict the submission of papers and attendance at technical conferences? What if scientists and engineers could no longer find a way to communicate with each other at these meetings? What if additional barriers were created to the interchange of scientific results? What if we all had to work in isolation?

This begins to look like a really ugly situation. Under these conditions, it seems to me, the rate of technical progress would slow to a crawl. The rate of world economic growth would be similarly affected. The restrictions on technical information exchange would likely create other economic and political barriers. All in all, it is not a direction that most of us would find desirable.

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Over the last several years, the Society for Information Display has been able to achieve healthy membership growth and has adhered to the principles of continuous improvement in its publications, conferences, chapter activities, and other member services. Nevertheless, we have noted that many of our members are finding it ever more difficult to justify their travel and active participation at key technical events to their managers. In spite of generally healthy economic conditions, it seems to be getting harder rather than easier to get management approvals. Temporary budget restrictions, once enacted, have the peculiar tendency of becoming the guideline numbers for the following year's planning. The short-term profit culture of many companies and the need to show aggressive cost cutting to stock holders makes conference travel an easy target. Writing and publishing papers is similarly easy to restrict or eliminate for not having an immediate profit-line benefit.

Can these small decisions eventually add up and reverse our recent growth trends? Of course they can. Thus, it becomes our collective responsibility to make sure they don't. SID can and will do it's part by striving to organize technical events of the highest caliber, by continuing to improve the quality and timeliness of its publications, by encouraging chapter activities that allow for the building of local professional networks, and by instituting electronic communications capabilities that allow for the dissemination of information and for interaction among all members of the display community. However, each one of us must also do our part by convincing our bosses and managers of the importance of our active participation through paper submissions and attendance at international conferences as well as chapter meetings.

In today's world, the lonely inventor is either already extinct or there are so few of them that I can't seem to find even one good one. Even large corporations, with equally large budgets, that have tried to develop new technologies in isolation have failed spectacularly. Only by sharing our results and interacting with our colleagues do we seem to be able to keep up with the pace of technology progress and contribute to it.

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Therefore, the development of a personal network of contacts within the display community takes on a major and very personal significance in regard to how successful we will be in our career growth. Once developed, this network of contacts becomes the most efficient method for gaining near-instant access to whatever knowledge we seek. A few e-mails or a few phone calls (typically not more than three) is all that is necessary for us to be guided to the best answer that current knowledge can provide.

You may wish to start, or continue to build, your personal network by contacting me and sharing your work- or SID-related experiences. Your method of contact may be any of the following: by e-mail at Email, by phone at 425-557-8850, by FAX at 425-557-8983, or by the traditional (but increasingly rare) post office method at 22513 SE 47th Place, Issaquah, WA 98029.