New Year, New Computer

For various reasons I have bought a new computer. The one I settled on is a Microsoft Surface Pro 2. I took ownership of it on December 31. It's only January 5 now, and as I think back over the last five days I feel as if I've been through a rapid fire personal learning mill which must be good practice for me in my role of 'change agent'. Here's the story so far (as I type I am downloading Adobe Acrobat XI which is going very slowly).

For a while I've been intrigued watching people take handwritten notes on tablets and endured some scoffs at my old fashioned pencil and paper approach so I was ready to take the plunge into a different experience. And I didn't want to have two devices – a tablet and a laptop. At a conference I sat next to someone from Microsoft who has a Surface Pro. He gave me what I thought was a realistic lowdown on it, including some of the things he didn't like about it: only one USB port, for example. But he seemed very happy with it and assured me that he would not get commission if I bought one as he is not a sales person according to organizational role definition. I formed a good impression of its capabilities

  • Learning point one: listen to an existing user's experience and ask lots of questions.

Not to be taken in by first impressions I did some research on tablets, evaluating the possibilities, there are lots to choose from. I also consulted with various other people including a computer whizz who said:

I reviewed both the ThinkPad tablet 2 and the Surface Pro 2. My vote is for the Surface Pro 2. I prefer the Core i5 processors to the intel atom processor from a performance standpoint and also considering you will need to install additional applications you will require for work such as Microsoft office and adobe reader or acrobat and other office applications that may become necessary for your work. It is more pricy but I'm confident you will get a better user experience with it.

  • Learning point two: don't go with first impressions, dig around for more information, challenge one's assumptions.

The reviews were generally in favor and the comments from both the reviewers and the users warned me ahead of time that Windows 8.1 is 'very different': reviewers have hosts of complaints and nitpicks about it which they are hoping Microsoft will listen and respond to. So I was pre-armed with that knowledge – which hasn't made things easier but at least I knew.

  • Learning point three: Try and visualize what you might be letting yourself in for, be prepared for things not to go as hoped for. Look at the gains not the losses.

Then the crunch time came. I had handed over the cash, and got the device. I'd got a list of everything I wanted transferred from my Dell Latitude to the Surface. I'm always very anxious at this point of transfer (just as in an organization design project) – it's when things get lost or fall between the cracks – like I didn't realized that the reader that reads pdfs on the Surface doesn't have any editing facility. Adobe wasn't transferred over. (Hence my downloading it now). But it seems that just about everything else was ok and ready to roll. The computer whizz, mentioned above, who did the transfer has supported my migration through several computers and knows my anxieties. He's incredibly calm. He installed team viewer as a crutch and left with the instruction to call him if I needed help. I warned him I probably would!

  • Learning point four: Do some preparation, have support at the ready and don't be afraid to ask for help

Transitioning over initially involved my having the Dell Latitude running alongside the Surface. I wanted to be sure I had (another) safety net. Why? Because learning a new system is frustrating – I needed to step aside at points and go back to familiarity. There were a lot of things on the Surface that I couldn't work out – like making the text larger and how to toggle between the desktop and the start screen. I contemplated giving up on the whole machine and found out that I had a grace period in which I could return it without any penalty. That's still a possibility but it's receding.

  • Learning point five: Take breaks from learning a new system. It's frustrating, time consuming and tiring but don't give up. Persistence works.

On day two however I decided to go cold turkey and switch off my Dell and put it away. So far I haven't got it out and I've been getting on well. Each time I reach a stumbling block I have googled 'how do I … ' and found an answer in one of the forums, or on YouTube – there hasn't been a question so far that I've put that someone else hadn't wrestled with which made me feel a whole lot less stupid. I'm delighted and surprised by the numbers of people who are willing to put out their queries, answer other people's and generally contribute to the learning process.

  • Learning point six: Take the plunge and let go of the safety net(s). There are others out there learning and it's fun to feel part of a group feeling their way through new territory – does this qualify as 'joint sense-making' in OD jargon? (Note: I didn't want to keep pestering the computer whizz).

The Surface has a small 10.6 inch screen and for the first time ever I decided I needed a monitor for home use. I'm not sure how easy it's going to be to read the screen for long periods of time e.g. when traveling. Getting the monitor also involved getting the connector which meant more cash outlay and time to go and buy the items.

  • Learning point seven: Be ready to adapt to the new situation and also be aware that it may take an unforeseen investment but ultimately be worth it. (I'm hoping so!)

Now it's the end of the fifth day in and I'm feeling more confident and on the plus side it's certainly going to be easier to carry a 2 pound device than a 7 pound one. Tomorrow I'm going to tackle learning the handwriting input piece.

  • Learning point eight: Be willing to carry on learning.

So this week I've experienced what people in change situations experience. OK, it wasn't a colossal change but it had all the hallmarks of what it feels like going through a specific change experience and a good reminder for me. When was your last change experience? What did you learn? Let me know.