What’s Keeping Significant Design Changes from Happening in Equipment and Techniques?

Written By: Lance Piatt

Ok… I will be honest here. Having been in the industry for almost 25 years, I have seen many, many, many seasons in the lives of company’s, personnel, ideas, and thoughts. Coming in one the heels of some original thought leaders and people pushing the envelope, things have sort of, well, plateaued. Not that there haven’t been improvements, just not at a rate I would have expected given the push I see in other areas of human performance with a mix of gear.

Right out of the gate, we are met with left brain/right brain or liberal/conservative thoughts. We all know that safety is an expected response to the “what”, “why” and “how”. No one in their right mind would really give up safety for a certain level of performance… Really? The reality, this is exactly what we are talking about.  I have watched the SSSF go from 15:1, to 10:1 to (in some cases) 7:1. Assuming now that 10:1 is the accepted margin of error and assuming that like most studies show, 10:1 is the perfect level when hardware and software are all working on all cylinders. We also know that when prusiks and other human intervention enters the ring, the 10:1 margin drops.

My questions from the survey are not meant to pick a fight with anyone or anything. It has more to do with seeing the incredible acceleration in technology and knowing what the human mind can conceive. However, ya’ll read the survey and the first two answers are incredibly telling. 47% thought that having Open Minds are part of the key to unlocking something incredible. 36% thought that Standards have a lot to do with what is not seen as significant improvements in designs. Creativity accounted for another 20%.  If you pull all this together, there is room for tremendous growth.

In reading through the write-in responses, forms of creativity, open minds, old guards, and litigation lined the streets.  Many folks were super positive at seeing a new crop of young folks who have the excitement and the cry of the millennials “question everything”. So let’s see a show of hands. How many of you reading this, wince at the thought of rescue and rigging professionals questioning everything you do and or have stood for? I am in that group, but I also know what is possible when looking at solutions that overrun the cloistered elements of protecting something because of either fear of the unknown, legal ramifications, or, shall I say, the retraining of an entire department.

So an opened mind can be considered “the readiness to consider something without prejudice”. Now prejudice is a “preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience”. I want to fight for something for a moment here. Reason or actual experience are not the same thing and most people will do anything they can to never put themselves or others in harm’s way. So the “reason” can be construed as “don’t mess with success”. So while the intention is founded in logic, I want to say that fear drives the end product. Really you say? For those who remember in Lord of the Rings, Sam is given some rope. Maybe not the coolest thing compared to a knife, but Lady Galadriel knew better. Elvish rope… literally not of this world. Small, light, gnarly strong AND!!! it has AI (one might even say NI… natural intelligence). Why not? Small rope, begets new gear, begets incredible weight savings and what if no belay is needed. What? No second line? Blasphemy!!!!

What about the sacred cow? Standards. So who writes these standards? How old are these standards? How about the thought of re-doing these standards? Expensive right? Many of you mentioned litigation factors. Insurance issues, right? Rewriting all of these could take a long long time. The issue is never really the issue and, are we seeing this today? A resounding yes! The survey clearly shows that a large percentage of you folks are seeing something that “is not” happening and clarified your thoughts with a reference point.

So I propose another question: Does technique determine the equipment needed, or will equipment determine the techniques used?  What if neither of these are the solutions to problems?  I can tell you this… when we aren’t asking the right questions, we’ll never get the right solutions because the problems haven’t been addressed. I saw a few write-in responders says that hope resides in the gathering of creatives. Now I want to step on a couple of sacred toes here; experience in an industry over time decreases one’s ability to be creative in that field. Why? Bias! And bias is the one killer of any creative movement. Too many ghosts.

Ponder this and let me know your thoughts….


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24 thoughts on “What’s Keeping Significant Design Changes from Happening in Equipment and Techniques?”

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