[Ed. Note: Please welcome guest blogger, Sam Harden, from vLex. – GL]

I used to watch a lot of Star Trek TNG – every episode it seemed like some super complicated futuristic technology was an instant solution to an intractable problem the crew was facing. Can’t find the cloaked Romulan ship? Modulate the tachyon pulse beam transmorgifier! I didn’t know this at the time, but things like that had become so common in the series that the script writers wouldn’t even bother coming up with the technical jargon when they were writing the script:

“It became the solution to so many plot lines and so many stories,” ST:TNG writer, Ron Moore said. “It was so mechanical that we had science consultants who would just come up with the words for us and we’d just write ‘tech’ in the script. You know, Picard would say ‘Commander La Forge, tech the tech to the warp drive.’

I’m serious.

Some Context:

I’ll come back to this concept of ‘teching the tech’ in a moment, but first let me lay some context. vLex has me doing free consulting sessions with anyone who wants them. So far I’ve done a good number of interviews – all legal professionals, either practicing law or working in the legal sphere in some capacity.

The people I’ve talked to fall into some different broad categories:

  1. Those who want to improve their practices and client service through technology;
  2. Those looking for better ways to deliver value to a broader range of customers through
    technology; and
  3. Legal professionals curious about how technology is changing the legal landscape.

The common theme running between those categories is the desire for instituting or understanding change. What’s impressed me the most is how much legal professionals want to find a solution to some problem that they see. We legal professionals get a bad, and in my mind undeserved, rap about not wanting to change things, being luddites, and generally being content with the status quo. But through these interviews I’ve seen how legal professionals are out there, experimenting on their own dime, and trying to figure out how to make things better.

Legal professionals are natural problem-finders. I’ll spare you the usual paragraph about law school, analytical thinking, and the need for constant risk analysis, but suffice to say that legal professionals look at a situation and instantly see problems. But not only do legal professionals I’ve talked to see problems, they’re also starting to find the solutions to those problems.

Everyone that I’ve talked to knows that technology is part of the path to get to the solution. But, and I’m speaking generally here, many times the technical details become a sticking point and prevent us from thinking about what matters: where the journey from problem to solution takes us. This is where ‘teching the tech’ comes into play.

Tech the Tech

Technology isn’t an end unto itself – it’s the thing that gets you from where you are to where you want to be. To stretch that metaphor so far it almost causes a rip in space-time, does it matter what fuel the warp drive needed? What color the glowy parts were? No! The warp drive had one purpose and one purpose only – to get the ship through space and past the mean Romulans.

So the big takeaway is this: don’t get lost in the details of the solution. Tech the tech. Visualize what the outside of the solution looks like for the person using it. Imagine what the person using it wants, what they do, and what they get. If you’re starting out trying to solve a problem, the details of the tech don’t matter – tachyon pulse vs. gamma burst vs. baryon sweep vs. antimatter … whatever. Don’t obsess over the details of technical implementation. Tech the tech, and describe what the solution looks like to the end user. Once you know the end of the story, begin to fill in the technological details.