My first paid consulting job convinced me that technology would solve all our problems. Over 30 years ago, I was writing flight-planning programs with a 1-kilobyte* programmable calculator, and it was incredible: calculations that took hours by hand were done in a few minutes.
What I didn't see then was the whole picture. Technology is (and always has been) only part of the equation. My client and I had to put our knowledge together: his knowledge of the math needed for flight-planning, and my knowledge of how to write that into a program.
What I've discovered is that machines can never do our thinking for us – even though advertisers have been claiming they can for decades. Exhibit A:
"Its vacuum tubes will make up your mind for you far faster than your gray matter can." Somehow I'm reminded of modern ads claiming that technology can decide what's important to you.
What I found out
During my graduate research on how people work. I saw that even people with the best technology could work very ineffectively. At the same time, some people could use outdated equipment – even as simple as pen and paper – and create great value for their organization. Obviously, technology alone didn't make people better workers.
It became clear that technology is useless if people don't know how to work with it – and more importantly, use it to work together.
Based on my experience and research, I came up with this equation as a model for the effectiveness of individuals and teams:
Value (V) = Knowledge (K) x Methodology (M) x Technology (T)
Technology is literally only part of the equation. There are two other factors:
Methodology: the habits, rules, and practices that people follow to get work done. In other words, how people work.
Knowledge: what you know, who you know, and what they know
Let me go back to the flight-planning example:
K = my client's knowledge of the mathematics needed for flight-planning
M = my process for translating that math into programs
T = the 1-kilobyte programmable calculator
Without all three, our operation wouldn't have worked and I would've been out of a job.
A kindred spirit
I was delighted to come across a very insightful article that Mark Mortensen of INSEAD recently wrote for the Harvard Business Review: "Technology Alone Won't Solve Our Collaboration Problems." He emphasizes "a simple truth: it’s not what technology you’ve got, but how you use it" and includes three specific examples of how to work more effectively with today's technology.
I'm glad to find someone who recognizes "it’s less important which technology you choose and more important that you align it with how people do work." Mortensen acknowledges the importance of method and knowledge as well as technology. See here for his article.
Three factors to success
The interaction of knowledge, methodology, and technology is critical to any organization's success and the value of any individual's work. This is what I've brought to my consulting clients over my decades in the field, and I've clearly seen the results: it works.
To share your thoughts on this topic, connect with me on social media (below). When you're ready discuss how I can help you and your organization manage the balance of KMT, click "Contact" in the upper-right. I'd love to chat!
From the makers of "Conference Call in Real Life" comes another viral sensation that's sweeping the nation! See how many email mistakes and bad habits you can spot:
Here are a couple I'd like to point out:
If you really need a report (or anything else) ASAP, email is probably not the best way to ask (especially if your reader is getting hundreds of emails a day)
Only use "Reply All" if every single person in the conversation needs to know what you're saying
Yes, Tripp & Tyler are right that people use email for the wrong things. But that doesn't make it a bad tool. Like we've said before, email is not the problem: how people use it is the problem.
Would this be a bad time to mention that you can get our Top 10 Email Tips by following Inside eProductivity? These are completely, 100% guaranteed to make everyone want to respond to every one of your emails, all the time.*
*Unless they don't feel like it, or yours is the 180th email they've received today, or they're in a meeting, in which case the full faith of this absolute guarantee is annulled, abrogated, eliminated, invalidated, abolished, expunged, undone, and annihilated. The tips are still good, though, and with them you're still more likely to get a response than without. And they're free!
A few days ago, I was talking to my Robotics students about the posts made in our Facebook group. I didn't want to come across as the old guy bashing social media, but I told them I was surprised at how little discussion was actually taking place online. Students would post, but usually others would only respond by "liking."
If my students were only posting cat videos, I wouldn't have a problem with this, but most of the posts were meant to start discussion or get feedback. For these kinds of posts, "like" doesn't mean anything.
Before Facebook and Twitter, if you wanted to engage with somebody's post, the only way (on nearly all platforms) was to make a comment. Writing and posting a comment takes at least a little thought and effort.
I'm not saying that "liking" is bad and everyone should stop it. What I am saying is this: think about what your "like" means.
Here's an example of a post where "liking" would be completely appropriate:
In this case, "like" simply means "yes."
On the other hand, think about what "like" means for a post like this:
In this case, "like" doesn't mean much of anything, except maybe "I approve of this idea, but don't want to contribute anything to it."
After that talk with my students, I noticed that they commented more and "liked" less.
I've been working with electronic messaging (email, etc.) in one form or another for over 30 years. Back in 1992, I (successfully) sold a server-software product that promised to help people deal with the "flood" of 40 emails a day! Much of my executive coaching business has revolved around helping professionals manage their email (many receive up to 400 a day).
I've had a front-row seat to the rise of email along the whole way. For many people, it's grown into a monstrous beast. A couple years ago, McKinsey & Company found that workers spend up to 28% of their day writing and reading emails. Inboxes fill up over lunch breaks. We're all guilty of being to quick to send to others whose email is just as out-of-control as ours.
I think that's at least half of the issue: who's creating the problem. I also think we can definitely find ways to address this together.