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Our fear of getting it wrong stops us from getting it right

When I started working in the fire service, things weren’t exactly progressive. Most departments weren’t being headed by true leaders and even fewer people were working to change the culture and overall approach of service delivery. Where once we operated under the banner of ‘150 years of tradition unimpeded by progress’, the the emergency services is now doing incredible things and the future looks bright.

Despite all of this recent advancement, there’s still room for some polish, particularly when it comes to the integration of technology into our organizations. Over the years we’ve had the good fortune to speak with responders from across the globe and we’ve seen the emergence of a common theme. We’re too focussed on making the wrong choices around technology. This focus on making mistakes isn’t only unhealthy but it’s also out of step with the quick adoption of new and innovative solutions by those in other fields.

As an industry, we need to realize that this mentality almost always leads to friction and ultimately slows our rate of progress. New initiatives never get off the ground and momentum stalls. Not only does this thinking slow down our own organization’s rate of advancement but it contributes to less innovation throughout our industry. If we’re not pushing the boundaries, we’re not pushing others and that doesn’t serve anyone well.

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To be at the forefront of technology means we’re going to make mistakes. The key is anticipating this and being flexible enough to quickly move past whatever issue might arise. As first responders, we need to better embrace technology, we need to incorporate the latest and greatest hardware and software into mission critical roles and we need to be OK with the possibility that it won’t always unfold perfectly.

Regardless of the problem you’re working to solve, you’ll almost always be better off with a solution that ‘mostly’ works vs. the one that you’re still ‘analyzing’. So stop focussing on what might go wrong and look instead at the huge potential upside of being on the bleeding edge. Your organization will be better for it and so will the citizens you’re tasked to protect.