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When DIY is NBO (not the best option).

Knowing when to use an expert is half the battle.

My colleagues at H5 and I routinely help our clients by pairing document search expertise with advanced search and analysis tools to find the documents that matter.  We know firsthand that calling on experts with the right know-how and the right tools will get you to your objective faster and with lower risk, every time.

And yet, we also recognize it’s easy to fall into the “do-it-yourself” mentality for many things outside our areas of expertise. I sometimes fall victim myself. This past weekend I had one such experience that served as a clear reminder to heed my own advice. 

It all started when my wife called out to me from the other end of the house. I had a feeling from the tone of her voice (we’ve been married a long time) something was not right. Sure enough, something was wrong with the elliptical exercise machine. It wasn’t changing speed and resistance as it should.

Now, I am a fairly handy and technical guy (or I like to think that I am). And if solving the problem turns out to be easy, who wants to call (and unnecessarily pay for) a repairman, right?  I decided to try my hand as elliptical repairman for a bit. I grabbed my tool box and set to work diagnosing the problem.

It wasn’t long after I started on the “repair” that I realized I did not have the correct size screwdriver in my tool box. I had to go very slow to avoid stripping the screw heads when removing the outer cover. As a result, removing the cover took three times longer than it would have with the right tool.

Once the cover was off, I saw wires, magnets, and other metal parts.  For the next little while I did the things any reasonably intelligent person (with absolutely no business opening an exercise machine) would do. I checked wires to see if they had become disconnected. I looked for rusted or jammed parts. My review, while logical and reasonable, yielded no new information, other than to confirm that what I was missing was not obvious and would be harder to find than I originally thought.

While I had a general understanding of how an elliptical works, I am certainly no expert in elliptical design or repair. The specific parts and how they interrelated was not intuitively obvious. Luckily, I was able to go online and find diagrams and explanations of each part within my specific elliptical model – gotta’ love the internet for that. But this took additional time, and all the while I was telling myself that there are people in the world who know this stuff cold; people who are experts in elliptical repair who don’t need to review documentation and who could leapfrog over the logical and basic steps to find the real issue.

With further research on the internet, I began to theorize that the motor may have failed. Experienced elliptical repairman had posted in online forums about special equipment that can be used to test the motor for power failure. Again, I did not have these specialized tools, nor did I know how to use them.

After another 20 minutes of (frankly wasted) time and effort, I threw in the towel and decided to call a repairman.

The next morning, Jim the repairman arrived. He spent 15 minutes with my elliptical and then announced it was working properly again. I was stunned. The problem had clearly not been obvious. Or perhaps it was obvious to the trained eye? Perhaps it was easy to diagnose and address with the right tools, used in the right way? I had wasted no less than 3 hours of my time on something he accomplished in a fraction of the time. And while my initial instinct was to avoid out-of-pocket  cost of a repairman, in the end it would have been a far cheaper path considering the value of my time.

What played out in relation to my elliptical is the exact thing we at H5 talk about all the time.  The right tools, in the hands of expert users, yield the best result. This applies to every field – from elliptical repair to electronic document search and review for litigation and investigations.

While you might not have attempted to repair a piece of exercise equipment, I am willing to bet there are many proverbial “ellipticals” in your life. If you are a litigator, a case in point is document review and search in a world where documents are electronic. More often than not, what you need to find is not obvious, and seemingly logical and reasonable techniques do not work.  There is a vast array of new technology, tools, and techniques to find the documents you need. There are experts trained in the use of these tools and related fields, such as linguistics and data analysis. The right tools, in the hands of expert users, can give you an unparalleled advantage as compared to doing-it-yourself.

The next time you catch yourself in my shoes – attempting to play elliptical repairman or searching endlessly for those hot documents you can’t seem to find – I encourage you to heed this advice, and call your “elliptical repairman” right away.  It will be your fastest, most productive and lowest cost path to get you “back in shape” again.

Photo Credit:  US CPSC
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