To what end?

Recently, I have been thinking about technology and all that we imagine it promises.  It seems that we may be slipping into an unfortunate frame of mind where we begin to think of technology as the master instead of the servant.  I am as much at fault as anyone as I continue to search out new tools and read more about all that we can accomplish but the question still remains…”to what end?” What is the goal of all of the time saving efforts and productivity boosting technology?  What is the ultimate value in doing more in less time?  I think it is a interesting strategic question as it requires that we somehow align our actions with our goal(s) and that may prove problematic.  In the early to mid 90’s, I ran a retail operation that generated around $30MM and our only “technology” was voice-mail (and a mobile phone that was actually mounted in my car).  The funny thing was that we did a pretty good job of running the business and there was no email and/or other Internet based technology at our disposal.  I cannot say with certainty that I have ever been more productive but can say with certainty that my positions after that had very different components.  In fact, more recent positions required that I be effective and efficient at email before all else.  In fact, if the email system went down many people would go to lunch early or go home because there was nothing they could accomplish without it.  I have also had people call me to ask why I had not responded to an email they sent less than 30 minutes earlier.  Are we becoming so programmed for instant response that we have to remain tethered to our technology in order to constantly communicate?  Does this quantity of communication affect the quality? Here are some questions to ponder:

  • When you engage new technology, do you stop and determine how it supports your existing business and/or personal strategy?
  • Do you measure the actual increase in productivity from technology?
  • Are there benchmarks that you want to achieve in order justify the investment of time?
  • Is technology the “means” or the “ends” of your strategy?
  • Has technology really changed any of the fundamentals of business?
  • Is doing things faster always better?
  • Can you concentrate on one issue for longer than 5 minutes without checking email, facebook, twitter, etc.?
  • Why do we feel the compulsion to be connected?
  • Ultimately, are we happier/more content/better human beings/more grounded due to all of the technological advances?
  • Can we continue to increase our pace of living and expect our level of satisfaction to increase as well?

I certainly do not know all of the answers for these questions, but continue to ponder the questions myself on a daily basis as I struggle to develop my own “strategy 4 life”.  Personally, I struggle because one of the great things about technology is that it puts unimaginable amounts of data at our fingertips and I am voracious learner.  I fall prey to reading article and article and clinking link after link until I feel like Alice falling down the rabbit hole.  I guess we all have to determine the point at which there is not enough incremental value to justify to additional efforts.

It really comes down to how we each measure our quality of life.  It will obviously be different by person but the key is that we call consciously decide and not allow the technology to sweep us away.  It is really not that much different that the approach organizations use for strategic planning…we have to be conscious of our own personal “strategic drift”.  If we drift, we make a series of small decisions that if evaluated singularly are not significant but cumulatively can dramatically change the course we originally set (think “boiling frog”).

I guess that’s the message…don’t be a boiled frog!

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1 Comment

Filed under The Human Condition

One response to “To what end?

  1. Interesting post.

    As you say, there is always the assumption that technology makes things better.
    But I agree, even just the myriad of ways we can communicate with people has not made our interactions any better. Just faster and more frequent.

    It’s good to question these assumptions every now and then! Well done!

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