Can We Still Opt Out of Technology Today?

~ Originally published on Say “Alaka‘i” April 2009 ~
Can We Still Opt Out of Technology Today?

An Apple for Lunch
by chrisschuepp on Flickr

Welcome to Sunday Koa Kākou. Sunday is the day I answer questions you send to me (or I take the day off! Want different? Be a Squeaky Wheel). If you have a question connected to management and leadership, leave a comment here, or email me.

This is a comment which came in for this article:

Hiding from the Web is Foolish: 5 Steps to Smarter

“There really aren’t too many excuses for why someone doesn’t have an email address or a professional online presence in these days… I’ve been wondering though… for someone who is tech savvy, why is it that an immediate reaction to finding out about someone else’s less tech savviness is looked down upon? Is it the generation? ignorance? rudeness?”

I thought it was a good question, one we could bring to Koa Kākou today for a bit more exploration and discussion, for it’s a question we could probably apply to a lot of other situations where someone knows more about something than another person, not just technology as I am doing today.

“Is it the generation? ignorance? rudeness?”

The generation? ”“ personally, I don’t think so.

Ignorance? Rudeness? ”“ could be a part of it, but likely not the whole story.

There is certainly a judgment of some kind involved; let’s call it a levying of opinion about the situation at hand. However I think that opinion and the emotions connected to it depend a lot on varying circumstances” The person already ‘in the know’ may not be looking down on someone as much as they are surprised, disappointed in them, or just impatient.

They could even be alarmed, concerned at what a friend is missing out on, when in their view ignorance is NOT bliss. Our assumptions get challenged, (“But I thought you already knew this!”) and we can’t help but wonder how else our assumptions in relating to that person and interacting with them might be wrong: We get thrown off balance because that person is no longer as predictable to us; they are no longer a comfortably ‘known entity.’

The Tech Effect: Competency and Communication

In the case of tech and being web-savvy, I do feel it is a big assumption in business today that prospective candidates have a basic handle on technology. If they don’t, we wonder why.

Tech competencies can be taught fairly easily and quickly as on-the-job training, and that is not the concern: We wonder why the learning hasn’t already happened, and we wonder how else a candidate may be ‘learning challenged,’ or otherwise disinterested in innovation, something critical to the long-term prospects of every business.

Taking this even further, I coach business owners that once people are on staff, the managers and leaders of that business must step into the role of teacher and coach as new advances in technology promise to potentially affect both work performance and lifestyle comfort. Work affects life and life affects work. For instance, I’d bet that every business owner would LOVE it if every single one of their employees had a personal email address and gave their employers permission to use it to communicate with them.

Advances in technology have had a pervasive effect on our society, and while we can still opt out personally, for many of us opting out is not a viable option within the workplace. The ‘tech effect’ looms largest in these two critical areas:

1. Job Competency, i.e. best-possible productivity practices.

The number of software programs which now exist to automate, speed up or otherwise improve work performance is amazing. Do they always have that effect? No, and part of job competency has become the learner’s experience with weighing the pros and cons of specific technological application, figuring out whether the old way or new way is still best.

2. Communication.

Consider email and company intranets as just two of the many examples which exist today, or the way that Bluetooth receivers are so commonly issued with uniforms throughout the food service industry for the front-of-house staff to better communicate with the kitchen. Now think about all the external partnerships and customers of your workplace, and what it takes to meet their expectations whether or not a business is tech-savvy internally.

So here is my advice, and in light of my recent articles, this is not likely to surprise you.

Get on board the Tech Train and enjoy the ride!

Going back to this for a moment; “Is it the generation? ignorance? rudeness?”

Let’s say no!

— The generation?
No, and don’t allow that to be an excuse or justification, or your expectation of others. Technology consistently proves there are no age barriers, just different learning and adoption choices within every generation.


We live in a day and age where ignorance is hard for people to accept any more than other excuses or justifications are, and they do wonder and look deeper for other root causes. They question if there is really something else going on with you, just as I’d mentioned how a hiring manager can wonder about a learning challenge or attitude of disinterest. People tend to be more understanding about a learning curve with job competencies, but they are much less understanding about someone choosing not to communicate with them in ways that they prefer or feel are easier.


Let’s hope not, and let’s all do our part with eliminating any rudeness or intolerance. Let’s offer to teach, help, and coach others, making it easier for them. Let’s talk about those joys of learning and the exciting and inspiring prospects of creativity and innovation. As Mother Teresa said so well in the context of eliminating poverty but very apt here too,

“If each of us would only sweep our own doorstep,
the whole world would be clean.”

To the point of this blog in particular, if you are an Alaka‘i manager or a leader, opting out of technology is not an option today. Alaka‘i managers and leaders are lifelong learners. They have to be. Their self-talk is always “Can do!”

So, we play full out: Let’s talk story. You now have three Alaka‘i ways to do so:

  1. Comment right here on the blog —I encourage you to introduce yourself so we can get to know you.
  2. Twitter with us @sayalakaimahalo nui loa to those who have already jumped in there!
  3. Email me your questions for Sunday Koa Kākou —it’s no surprise to me that Sundays now capture some of the best postings here, for you make this happen.

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  1. says

    I consider myself quite tech-savvy (well, you always could know more, but I get along quite well), but I know some of the less tech-savvy persons. A lot of them are afraid – afraid of getting problems they will not be able to solve, afraid of not being able to learn all those new things. So they stick to what they know – they think they are safe doing that.
    The first step for them is to learn that new technology can have a meaning for them – that they will be better off having a personal e-mail address, or a twitter account. If they see the advantage, the following steps are a lot easier.

  2. says

    Interesting question.
    If I was to encounter someone without a professional email address, I probably react surprised – like someone would have reacted in 1974 after being told the other professional doesn’t have a phone, which was common work ‘technology’ at the time. However, I’ve not met someone in the last five years without a ‘work’ email address.
    Now, in my personal life, I know several people who don’t have personal email addresses and swear they never will! I understand their protest and take down their phone number like the ‘good old days.’
    It’s interesting to note here – generally, I’m better friends with people who want to be telephoned (to speak to their friends) than with people who communicate only through electronic means.

  3. says

    I think you are right about the fear Ulla, or at least an apprehension and hesitancy. I remember when we first bought a computer for our home many years ago: We had our kids open it as a Christmas gift, and as they tore off the gift wrapping Ker and I looked at each other with the very same thought ”“ and question: “This is no bicycle” now how does this Christmas toy get put together and who is doing it?” And you know who did? My son, the baby of the family.
    It can take a good friend or coach (or smart kids!) to help someone see the advantages, and the choices are so dizzying when it comes to software apps today, so I think the first fear we need to work through is often asking someone else for help.
    Laurie the telephone is interesting to me in how it connects to and affects our computer use, for there is no question that email has proliferated a good deal of avoidance behavior in us. I recall having a boss who we’d never dare ask “did you read my email?” for he would predictably say, “you want an answer, call me” and we didn’t want him wondering about why we didn’t! He was also one who often ranted about us not accepting personal calls at work though, and so he was an advocate of hotmail because he was so adamant that we not use our work email addresses for anything but work.
    I think there is still a privacy factor at play here too though, with many now having personal email addresses, but keeping them ‘unlisted’ and as un-guessable as passwords while using their email addresses at work as buffer zones.