Finding the Big Picture in Your Display World


I was having lunch recently with a colleague, and we were discussing the interpersonal dynamics in high-tech companies. We were sharing experiences of the typical conflicts that go on between departments and teams involving budgets, schedules, resources, goals, and egos. This situation is especially noticeable when a business grows from the $10 million category to the $100 million category, and the old culture of teams working together is replaced by departments that become each other's internal customers. The inevitable outcome is that the people in these new departments become more and more internally focused – concerned with their own performance, their group's metrics, and preserving their budgets and turf. Technologists are not immune from this: Whether they are caught in the battle of protecting the budget for their project or preserving the technical approach they have worked on for so long, their knee-jerk reaction is to look more inward than outward. It takes a measure of personal courage and professional maturity to step out of the quagmire and look at the really big picture, which often includes the financial health of your company, the rapidly changing dynamics of your marketplace, the endless changing face of technology, and the not-always-rational behavior of your customers.

And so, as we are slightly past the half-way point in the year, I thought it would be a good time to suggest that all of us take a deep breath and reflect on where we are and where we and our businesses are going. These days, the markets dictate the spending on display technology, and far fewer of us enjoy the luxury of working on technology for its own sake. The futures of our careers and our businesses are intricately linked to a global web of markets and products that are influenced by factors way beyond the technology we love. And as much as we love the stuff we are working on, we have to be willing to recognize that sometimes that "stuff" is no longer the right solution for the marketplace or, on the other hand, that the market is not yet ready for its emergence. That is why it is critical to take the time to step out of your environment and look around at what everyone else is doing. And when you do look, ask yourself honestly if what you see will affect you or your business, maybe in ways you will not like. Knowing, and accepting, the information sooner gives you more time to adapt and more chances to ultimately succeed in your efforts.

There are many things you can do to get a better look at the markets – network with colleagues from other industries, attend trade-society meetings, talk with customers openly (rather than trying to sell them), examine the work being done at the academic level, and browse the aisles of the local retail outlets. Personally, I like to visit the local retail outlets and talk with the sales associates. I ask them what products people buy and why. I'm often surprised and sometimes disappointed by the answers I get (but that's a topic for another editorial).

This is also why the industry needs events like Display Week: The SID International Symposium, Seminar & Exhibition, as well as the myriad other display technology conferences. Attending these events gives you the opportunity to see and learn about the latest in display technology before – or sometimes in the absence of – commercial success. For example, by the time a display product appears at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), it has already gone through many iterations and numerous competing schemes may have been considered and rejected. However, at Display Week, we often get to see the early efforts, warts and all. We get to see what others are spending precious resources on, and it helps lend perspective to future developments. Some efforts will succeed, some will not. But in almost every case, there is some specific market or business force justifying the resources involved. Understanding this side of the equation is just as critical as appreciating the technology.

This month, we review Display Week 2007, which took place in May in Long Beach, California. To do this, we called on well-known and experienced industry veterans, including Paul Drzaic, Carl Cobb, Geoff Walker, Peter Smith, and Adi Abileah. Each of these contributors took upon himself the mission of bringing the clearest perspective possible from his subject area to the technology and products being shown at Display Week 2007. Creating this comprehensive issue takes time, which is why we do not rush it, and I sincerely hope you can take the time to use this issue as one small part of your own evaluation process. I am very proud to present this issue to you and very grateful to the dedicated authors that helped assemble it.

Stephen P. Atwood