About a month ago, I attended BizTechDay Seattle. The room was full of geeky people like me, who love new technology and gadgets and programs that are supposed to make our lives more efficient, fun or connected. In between speakers, there were demos of stuff we didn’t know existed, but now *had* to have.
I left that day overwhelmed by all of the bright shiny objects I’d learned about and wondered (OK, salivated) about how I was going to implement what I’d learned.
Fortunately, I haven’t done any of it.
Which brings me to my next installment of looking at Jim Collin’s classic “Good to Great” through the lens of the introvert entrepreneur. You might think that a chapter about technology in a book published in 2001 – with most of the research available stopping around 1999 – wouldn’t have much insight or relevance in our Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn/iPhone world.
And you would be wrong. If anything, it’s even more relevant.
Collins and his team found that technology was a key factor in each of the Good to Great companies. They were often pioneers in whatever technological advance they chose to embrace. The comparison companies often had the same capacity, the same access.
What was the difference?
The Good to Great companies used technology as an accelerator, not a creator, of momentum. They used it to take a concept or product that already existed and make it better. They didn’t adopt new technology to create something new, or as an end in and of itself; they used it to leverage their core mission.
The Good to Great companies made sure the tail wasn’t wagging the dog. In other words, technology didn’t drive the company culture or Hedgehog Concept. Each company made sure that technology was working in service to what they could be the best in the world at, what drove their economic engine, and what they were passionate about.
The Good to Great companies took a “crawl, walk, run” approach to technology. Their choices were based on sustainability and the degree to which they aligned with their Hedgehog Concept. The comparison companies went in reverse, running before they could walk or even crawl. They reacted to what others were doing, for fear of being left behind.
[pullquote]Technology… the knack of so arranging the world that we don’t have to experience it. ~Max Frisch[/pullquote]
See how this works?
So often, I hear (and have said myself) “If I can just get the right program/software/smart phone/computer, things will be so much better.”
Or, “That’s so cool…” (looking at a new social media platform that does everything but go to the doctor for you)… “I’m going to make my profile and the clients will come knocking!”
OR, “You HAVE to be on Twitter/Facebook/LinkedIn or else you’ll have no credibility”
What many people are realizing, now that the shine has dulled slightly on these miracle tools (and for introverts, they are definitely miraculous – we get to stalk… I mean, do research – and communicate on our own terms), is that technology for introvert entrepreneurs:
Is not our Knight in Shining Armor. We can’t depend on technology to save the day, or to protect us from doing stuff we don’t like (“pick up the darn phone!!!”). It might bring us some efficiencies… It might pave the way to more comfortable interactions… But it’s not a magic bullet.
Is no substitute for human contact. Sure, we can form rather complex and deep relationships online, and the magic (the “good to great”) happens when we meet eye-to-eye. Technology does not DEFINE our relationships; it builds on what exists in the real world.
Is a seductive mistress. We can wrap ourselves around a new toy and find a way to fit it into our business, because hey, it’s super cool, and we want to be cutting edge! If it’s not in service to our Hedgehog Concept, if it’s not obvious how it’s going to make our work more efficient or effective while deepening relationship, if it’s just going to be a cool distraction that keeps us feeling busy… well, that’s the tail wagging the dog. Technology should enhance and advance our goals, not determine them.
Is a path to mediocrity. As Bill Cosby says, “I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.” When we hear we HAVE to do something or else be regarded as a social media pariah, we end up posting profiles and creating new accounts on platforms that we don’t possibly have time to sustain. We plant a million seeds and expect them to grow without any water.
What’s more important than jumping on the latest gadget craze is to pick a few strategic tools that make the most of your time, energy and money; be sure they are in service to your Hedgehog Concept; and then show up 110%.
We all love bright shiny objects… they’re part of what makes life happy and fun. We have unprecedented and largely equal access to a million different tools. Choose yours based on what brings you closer to your definition of excellence, what’s sustainable and what works in service to you.