I’m a geek. Consequently, I always try to stay on the bleeding edge of technology. In the past this became expensive as I bought every new toy, gadget, phone, computer, program, etc. Each time, I’d rationalize the purchase by noting how much more efficient or productive it would make me.
Turns out I’m still waiting for my iPhone purchase to pay off. Don’t get me wrong – I love the phone. But not because it’s saved me hours of work. Texas Hold ‘Em and Tweetie 2 have saved me hours of boredom in airports and hospitals. However, was that worth roughly $2,500 over the life of the contract? I’m guessing not.
The problem for most business owners is that it doesn’t stop with gadgets. We need new websites, phone systems, software (custom preferably), computers, manufacturing equipment, etc. And we run through the same rationalization as an iPhone purchase. “It will make me/my employees/my company more _______________.”
After more than a decade in the technology industry, I’m going to let you in on a little secret: no it won’t. At least not in the way you think.
The Technological Myth
Assuming you had the same technology available to you today as the number one competitor in your field, would you be as successful as them? Be honest.
The answer is no. Why? Because contrary to popular belief, it wasn’t the technology that made them the leader in your field. However, we have been conditioned to believe it was by the people selling the tools. That’s the technological myth.
What We Can Learn From Formula 1 Racing
I watched my first Le Mans Series race on TV last year and was fascinated by the speed and beauty of the cars. If you know anything about the race (which I didn’t at the time) you would know that at the start of each year, every team receives a set of instructions on how to build their cars. The requirements are identical, but each team is responsible for building everything in the car. To picture what that’s like, imagine getting the instructions for building a car without receiving any parts and being told you can’t buy them.
Upon completion, each team has a car that meets the requirements but may vary quite substantially (in F1 standards) from the others. Then they hand the specs to a scientist who runs calculations and determines the winner for the year.
What? That’s not how it goes? Of course not. They race. They put people in the cars, people in the garages and people in the pits. Why?
Because at the end of the day, it’s not just about the technology. It’s about the team. It’s about the team’s ability to work together in their use of that technology. They make judgement calls and take risks. They condition their bodies and minds. If it was just about the technology, then we would have to assume you or I could climb into the cockpit of the best car and win.
A New Technology Paradigm
So how can we apply this to business? Next time you’re considering an upgrade, ask yourself these questions:
- Is there an actual problem with our current technology or is the problem with how we’re using it?
- If I didn’t have the money to pay for the new technology, how would I work around it?
- Is this technology core to our business? For example, a graphic design company probably ought to have relatively up-to-date computers and software. However, they probably don’t need the top-of-the line phone system. Or maybe you own a clothing store. Perhaps investing in better lighting would be more productive than getting that new Apple laptop to make flyers for your store.
- Is the new technology core to the requester’s job? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a request for dual monitors from a sales rep. Trust me, they don’t need it. However, don’t deny them to your programmers and graphic artists in the sake of “fairness.” Be reasonable. Ask the right questions.
Have you ever fallen victim to the technological myth?