Technology Is One Big Dog - Here's How To Cope

Jeff Cole

Ever feel like the tail that’s being wagged by the dog? Technology is one big dog and if you don’t hold on you’ll get flung off hard and fast. On a daily basis, technology upgrades storm through the corporate landscape sending out tsunamis of change in their wake. It may even feel like the machines are winning - so how can you stay sane and productive?

With great technology comes great change. Buy a snow blower, learn it and you’re set for the next 20 years. But buy a cell phone, piece of software, or a computer and you’re good for what? 6 months, a year tops before another large learning curve slides your way. That’s just at home – you have to couple that with constant corporate infrastructure upgrades facing you from 9:00 to 5:00.

Back in grandma and grandpa’s day a major change came along and then they got to sit in the rocking

Technology - is life going to the dogs?

chairs for a long spell, settle down, and go "whew – that was a doozy – are you ready for the next one?" Then they’d get up, stride forth and engage the next change that life had in store for them. Not anymore. The speed, amount, and complexity of changes coming at you today are greater than at any other point in human history – and many of those are technology-driven.

The onslaught of tech invasion into ones daily life is ever increasing. Sometimes it seems that anything that used to be mechanical is now electronic and comes with a 1" thick owner’s manual in seven languages. When I was a kid they promised that by now we’d own flying cars and robotic dogs. We’re not quite there yet – but just wait.

Technology and change – cause and effect. You are squarely on the receiving end of this equation. How can we best respond to this increasingly swift and complicated phenomenon and maybe even leverage it to our advantage? First, realize that when technology drives change you need to absorb that change (during which your productivity will be lowered) and then rise to hopefully higher levels of productivity and proficiency. During this journey there is a mental, emotional, time and sometimes monetary price to pay. That can be draining – especially if you are juggling multiple changes at once.

Here are some tips for keeping the "price" of techno-change at bargain-basement levels:

  • Don’t fall in love with the past - stay nimble. You don’t want to be that guy who holds onto his "red stapler" until it’s pried from his grasp. Nor do you necessarily need to be an "early adopter" if you are not comfortable with it. However the sooner you resign yourself to the fact that you will need to plow through dozens of tech learning curves in your life, the sooner your stress will be lowered. Be ready for the next change, then roll up your sleeves and engage.
  • Keep an open mind– you will absolutely love some of the changes technology will hurl at you in the future. Others will likely drive you mad. While you are cursing the change, kicking your feet and banging on the desk, guess what – it’s changed yet again! And now, instead of being one change behind, you are two changes behind. Like it or not and ready or not – tech change is coming – it’s in your best interest to be open to it.
  • Apply the Pareto principle– for those not familiar this is the 80-20 rule that goes something like this: 80% of your results come from 20% of the effort. This applies to many scenarios in life including tech change where 80% of your learning may come during 20% of the time you spend learning it. Put Pareto to work for you! Jump in, immerse yourself for a short period and see if you don’t surprise yourself with how much you learn in a very short period. Often the period of dread that precedes opening the user’s manual is worse than just getting on with it.
  • Learn how to learn– This is a hotly debated topic and I don’t claim to have the definitive answer. However, most all experts agree with one universal truth on learning and that is different people have different learning styles. Some toss the manual aside and just play with it. Others parse through all the fine print. Some prefer human instruction. Others want video played over their smart phones while listening to MP-3s, driving, and drinking coffee simultaneously. What is the most effective style for you? (Note that "effective" and "favorite" may be different). Try out different methods of learning and see which works best for you. Then leverage that to cut down the amount of time it takes to ramp up on your next tech change.