Technophobia and technosnobbery can both cause problems in the workplace. But the most important thing the remember about technology is that first you have to solve the problem.
As innovations continue to fill the workplace with an increasing velocity, we've seen productivity rise to previously unrealized levels. The speed with which new gizmos are introduced is enough to make our heads spin, let alone the wondrous wizardry of what each new gadget can do.
But while the tornado of technology has made many jobs easier, it's made other things more difficult. Ironically, one workplace factor that technology was supposed to improve was communications. Although improvements certainly exist across the board, in some cases the introduction of technology has had an equally negative effect.
Take technophobes, for example. These folks resist learning new technology, avoiding it until they're given the ultimatum to either use it or risk getting fired. Extreme technophobes flat out refuse to touch a mouse. Some will even lose a staring contest with a fax machine.
The negative ripple-effect of technophobia is that communications slow down, which damage a company's image (as well as its income-generating capacity).
But technophobes aren't the only ones causing trouble in the technology/humanity interface. Equally damaging are the technosnobs.
These folks have laser eyes and an intense passion for any new gadget or software on the market. Severe technosnobs show smug attitudes that all problems can be solved by technology, or worse yet, since they have intimate knowledge about how some software or gadget works, everyone else should, too (and they are complete idiots if they don't).
What's needed is balance. Too little technology can damage a company, but too much emphasis on using technology can have an opposite, but equally damaging effect: insulting people who aren't learning or using every advancement known to man.
Is there a cure for technosnobbery? According to Travis Crook and Scott Entrikin, co-owners of Visions Beyond in Pocatello, Idaho, the answer is "Yes: Humble Pie." They say that humility and realism are cures for all kinds of snobbery.
Billed as "an innovative solutions company," Visions Beyond was founded by Crook and Entrikin in 2000. When asked why they don't say "innovative technology solutions" when most of their solutions revolve around technology, Crook is quick to answer: "Technology is irrelevant."
He says, "First you have to solve the problem. For example, you probably wouldn't care if your company website ran on peanut butter, so long as it worked."
Entrikin says that technosnobs are fairly synonymous with technozealots. "They think if they know a lot about a particular technology, then their technology is the only solution. It's kind of like 'If I have a hammer, everything looks like a nail.'"
Again, their recommended solution is humble pie. "Finding solutions means to start thinking," says Entrikin. "Use the gray matter!"
On a personal level, while attending a conference recently on adult learning, I attended a breakout session on technology in the workplace. Surprisingly, many in attendance expressed frustration with the technosnobs at their work.
Toward the end of the session, we were asked what cool stuff we'd heard about lately. The purpose was to share about some innovative new technology, but when it came around to me, I threw a curve ball.
I said the coolest thing I'd heard about was people agreeing up front about what kind of technology they wanted to use on a given project. In other words, asking people which highest-common-denominator technology was best for everyone to useóand then sticking to it.
Heads nodded in agreement, and a few gave personal examples, such as teams agreeing to use nothing else but fax machines and Email. Essentially, Crook and Entrikin have it right: First you have to solve the problem. If the simplest technology is what's best to get the job done, then that's the best technology to use.