Talk before tech

I recently met up with an old, old friend. We haven't seen one another for a couple of years and decided to spend an evening catching up, kicking off with a visit to a play we'd last seen together as twenty-somethings.

It was great to see her again and I'm glad we got the chance to re-connect but the evening was punctuated by her constant (and I mean constant) use of her mobile phone. During the performance itself she was a flashing beacon within the audience as her screen lit up so she could follow some Facebook message or Instagram post. It carried on through dinner afterward, her trusty phone sitting on the table all evening, so that she could keep tabs on her virtual reality. It was really very sad. There was a time when you couldn't shut the two of us up. That night, however, was nothing but a series of interrupted conversations and lost trails of thought. There were so many things I wanted to ask and tell but didn't get the chance to.

The irony was that during the evening she bemoaned the impact advances in technology were having on her life, how she worried about becoming a technological dinosaur in the workplace and how scary it was that her kids sat glued to their screens all day and night. Her deft use of that little box of tech by her side, however, allowed me to reassure her that she was fine, right up there with the youngsters she was worried about.

Technology is wonderful but its contribution diminishes if we stop talking to one another. And that's never more true than in the workplace. If we don't communicate and interact we cannot possibly know whether the systems we are developing or implementing for ourselves and our customers are useful, frustrating, OK-ish or fabulous. Humans are adaptable, but sometimes we adapt to things that we shouldn't be accommodating; we develop ways to work around problems instead of demanding that the problem itself be resolved.

On the one hand you have those who can see that new technologies and systems can drive efficiency and competitiveness and are out there looking for ways to do what they do better, faster and simpler. Others just want to keep their heads down, get on with the job and go home. They won't even think about improvements in their processes and systems because they're their processes and systems and they work just fine, thank you very much.

The reality is that business needs both types of people, the dreamers and the do-ers, but driving change in that environment is a real challenge - if those two forces aren't talking to one another it can be a recipe for disaster and if new systems aren't driven from the top brass right down the command chain, implementing them in the workplace will fail.

There's a lot to be said for simply asking: "Why does this work for you?" So far, I don't think there's an app for that.

Posted by Kirsty McIntosh on Sunday, March 6, 2016

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