When technology is a help or a crutch

There is a common misconception that applied technology always achieves better results but that is too simplistic a viewpoint. Granted results may be achieved faster, more efficiently etc, but is the end result really better? Is a mass produced piece of furniture better than one built by an artisan? Is a robot helpdesk better than one staffed by humans? Is a self driving car better than one driven by humans?

Of course this is all depends upon content and that is precisely why I disconnect – I want to understand the true context of an activity so that I can understand the true nature of that activity and what makes it worthwhile, what makes it valuable, and by doing so, I develop an unfiltered appreciation of what could be gained by using technology in terms of time, cost, quality and accuracy.

The irony is that as we have become more technologically advanced and reliant, we have also become more self-aware and strive for more control of our own lives. In the work that I do to help businesses transform and benefit from technology, I often see overspending, over dependence and naive expectations that implementing technology without corresponding cultural and staffing improvements will deliver results – it rarely does.

Until evolution takes a different direction, humans remain a key component of most organisational systems. Learning how to work and live without technology helps to understand what working and living really means to all humans whether they are friends, family, employees or customers.

One of my very first bosses taught me this rule (loosely based upon a quote from the author Warren Gameliel Bennis) and I have applied it religiously ever since…

“The easy solution to every problem is to throw technology at it; but a better solution is to ensure that the right technology is used only when appropriate and only when there are people who can make use of it properly.”