No, Virginia, there is no magic bullet

speeding bullet

By Laura Haight
Originally published as the Digital Maven by Upstate Business Journal on Dec. 4, 2015

The greatest barrier to successful implementation of any new technology is grass roots adaptation. Will your line staff use it? Will your constituents like it?

It’s easy to say we expect compliance from our staff, but many a project gets derailed in just this way. Non-compliance and, worse, public criticism can turn an expensive project into a giant white elephant.

There are many reasons why this happens. 

  • Staff weren’t consulted or involved in the planning/design stages so they are hyper-critical and non-adaptive.
  • They haven’t been trained well enough to understand how to use the system.
  • They haven’t been offered a clear understanding of why change is necessary.
  • They don’t want to learn something new because it is too difficult.

All these reasons could be a discussion topic (and in fact, maybe they’ll be future columns) but today I want to focus on the fourth one. 

It’s just too hard.

There is a common misperception that technology is supposed to make your life easier. So when something new comes along and it seems harder, a lot of people just dismiss it as bad technology, poor design, a waste of money because it didn’t make everything easier for me.

Personally, I blame the marketing genius who first uttered the phrase “plug and play” for getting people started on the easy wagon. 

So here’s the most important thing everyone needs to know about technology: it is not easier to use. What it DOES do, is give you capabilities that were unimaginable before. Often, though, the trade off to get those capabilities is learning and understanding more. 

Here’s an example of pretty common consumer technology: What’s easier than buying a TV, plugging it into the wall and turning it on? That’s what we did for decades - very basic, plug and play. I just recently finally disposed of a TV that actually didn’t have a single port on the back, save for a coax connection. I should have checked with the Smithsonian first. 

But now, you’ve got HDMI, composite, component, DVI, S-video and that’s just to connect to the set top box from your cable provider. Layer in a DVR or another service like Roku, Apple TV or Chromecast or maybe external speakers or sound bar, and you have more to learn. Once you get everything connected, you may have to troubleshoot issues with your Wi-Fi connection, occasionally restarting the gateway to clear up packet loss resulting in reduced bandwidth. 

Nowhere near as easy as plug in, turn on and watch. But you have hundreds of channels, the ability to record multiple shows at the same time, searches, scheduling, email reminders and, on some systems, smart searching to auto record your favorite actors when their movies are on. 

The trade off? Even though you may have had to hire someone to set it all up for you, ultimately you had to learn how to use it.

This is the technology compact. Technology is not a magic bullet. And it is important that both sides of the innovation equation play their parts. The coolest new system in the world is nothing if only a small percentage of your staff are using it. If there are no champions talking it up and if, God forbid, they are actively turning people against it - internally and externally.

If you’re an IT person or one of the 13.5 percent of geeks, accept the fact that technology isn’t easy for everyone. Bring the naysayers into the planning process so they can learn early on how cool this is really going to be. And take the time to train them and work with them. Yes, some will never get it; but more will and so long as those percentages tip in your favor, the crowd of previous non-adapters will follow a new leader. 

If you’re a gumby, who just wants everything to be easy for you, wake up. The train has left the station. Try a little harder and stop wistfully waiting to wake up back in the ‘70s. You are just going to be disappointed, angry and left behind. There is so much you can DO now; open up and let yourself be amazed at how powerful you have become.