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Instruction Manuals

April 22, 2014

Today I’d like us to try and be honest with each other by answering this very simple question; how many of us take time to read manuals? Say for instance you buy a home appliance like an electric kettle. Do you take time to go through the manual before you start using the kettle, or do you assume you already know how to use a kettle and so you don’t need to read the manual?

Better still let’s use a more common example, a phone. How many of you actually take the time to go through the manual of any new phone you buy, before you start using it? From what I see of many people, once they buy a phone, they throw the box the phone came in together with all the manuals in it, almost throwing the warranty card as well. As a result, these same people end up not optimally using the phone because they have very little information on the features and functions of the phone they bought. If only they had taken time to read through the manual! For instance, anyone who buys an iPhone just for calls and text messages is doing great injustice to this amazing gadget. Take time to read through the manual of an iPhone and if you lost it, find the information on Google and you’ll be amazed at what it can do.

Well, I have to admit I ignored a manual of a certain appliance we bought about a year ago, and I did not find out how much I had missed until a year later! Who was I to blame for that? No one but myself. I assumed I already knew what I needed to know about this appliance since I’d been using it for a while, but little did I know that actually, there was some interesting information I had missed out because of making assumptions. Until a couple of weeks ago, when I stumbled upon this information in a supermarket, only to go back home to find out that if only I had opened the box when the appliance came home initially, I would not have waited one year to discover what I did. Let me explain what I mean.

Sometime early last year, the DSTV decoder at home started giving us issues and so we had to get a replacement for it. Well, it was more than a decade old so clearly, it had given all the service it could and so it was put to “rest” as it deserved. When we got the new decoder, since we were not new users, we didn’t bother going through the manuals that came with the new device. Early this year, we were shopping at our usual supermarket when I saw a DSTV flier and decided to pick one, just to see what new stuff they had. To be honest, I’ve always assumed that DSTV only offers premium (read costly) bouquets, but to my amazement, I discovered that they have five different bouquets and that actually they have a very budget friendly package that only goes for Tshs. 16,500/-.  

When I got home, I actually took time to go through all the channels available on DSTV and for the first time, I realized there was a lot more than I’ve ever bothered to find out. At that point I remembered the manual that came with the new decoder we had bought last year and to my shock, I discovered that all this information was right there in those small A6 size manuals. Problem is, I thought I knew everything there was to know about DSTV and so I ignored those manuals. You know something, some of you may probably be thinking that all DSTV offers are sports and news channels because that’s all we (women) are forced to watch by those who control the remote control, aka men. If you take time to go through all the channels offered, you’ll never have a boring day (for the housewives) or boring evening (for the working lady) ever again. What’s more, I have recently discovered they have great educational channels for kids as well, other than the kids entertainment channels we know. Better still, with the new DSTV decoder called the Explora, you can record weeks and weeks of all your favorite programs and watch them when the “controller of the remote” is not around. Besides, the football season is about to end and so finally we (women) shall have control of the remote control again, until world cup begins which won’t really affect us much because thankfully, the time zone is in our favor. Most games will be happening when we are sleeping. 

This whole “assumption” experience got me thinking about a lot of things and I have to admit I learnt a few lessons, some of which I would like to share with you now.

We are living in very dynamic times and unless we change with the times, we will be left behind in so many ways. For instance, for those from the older generation who are still holding key positions in organizations, your old school thoughts and ideas may be good but you cannot ASSUME that what you knew then will work in the world we are living in now. You need to verse yourself with new ideas that are applicable to the current world and life we are living in. You need to upgrade yourself and stop assuming that you know everything. Actually, no one does. Even a teenager can offer you an idea that if well implemented will take your company to the next level. You just need to stop assuming you know everything.

Another lesson I learnt is that no matter how much experience you think you have there’s always a chance that there’s something new you didn’t know. Whether it’s a new job you have, or an old job you’ve been having, always take time to see how best you can deliver by ensuring you’ve exhausted all angles of your job, and when you feel you know everything, look for other creative ways of doing the job so that it does not become monotonous for you. Remember, don’t ASSUME the experience you have is everything, for there’s always room for improvement by learning something new. 

As for those of us who think reading a manual is a waste of time, make it a habit to read the manuals because in so doing, you might actually save yourself some future embarrassment. For instance if someone had asked me before I went through that DSTV manual, I would have confidently argued with them that DSTV does not have a bouquet that costs less than Tshs. 20,000/-. Like my mum often says, “little knowledge is dangerous”. You can alleviate this danger by ensuring you equip yourself with all the information/knowledge you need by reading the manuals that come with the devices you buy. Besides, why do you think the person who wrote that manual did so? Why do you think the marketing department took all that much trouble to come up with such a beautiful manual for every device that is sold? It is so that you the user can get every bit of value that you deserve from the device. Reading the manual arms you with all the relevant/vital/important information you need in order to optimally use the device you bought. Never consider it a waste of time.

Seeing that we have a long weekend here with us, take this time to read all those manuals you discarded because you thought they were a “waste of time”.  You never know what you could be missing just because of your ignorance.

I wish you all a lovely Resurrection Sunday, a blessed Easter Monday and a well-informed week ahead of you.

PS: Article published in Tanzania's Guardian on Sunday on the 20th April, 2014, under my weekly column "Thoughts in Words".




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