The 2 C’s of Technology and Early Adoption

~ Originally published on Say “Alaka‘i”
June 2009 ~
The 2 C’s of Technology and Early Adoption


Glad someone knows all this...

A new reader who’d checked out a few of my ‘techie-type’ posts in the archives sent along an email saying,

“You seem to be an early adopter, but most of the managers I work with don’t embrace technology this much: How important is it that we keep up with the newest advances? Isn’t it smarter for leaders to work on their own ideas, and hire others who specialize in this technological stuff, having experts do it for them?”

Great questions.

Hire an expert, or learn it yourself?

I’ll answer the second question first, and then we’ll get back to the early adoption part of it:

Isn’t it smarter for leaders to work on their own ideas, and hire others who specialize in this technological stuff, having experts do it for them?

I’d say it depends on how much technology is part of the idea that leader is working on, and where their own strengths will best serve the project at hand. Thus the answer is an industry-by-industry call, and the technology menu of options gets bigger every day. Go with your strengths (i.e. where your stronger work activities will serve you best), and compensate for your weaknesses.

However do understand that the most successful leaders have big-picture awareness: They may not do it all (and usually can’t), but they are aware of what it takes, and most importantly, they are aware of what might be possible. I believe that bigger visions result from consequential learning [the Hawaiian values of ‘Ike loa and ‘Imi ola in action.]: The more you learn, the more you realize how much more is possible, and the bigger you dream.

Remember our Alaka‘i leadership definition: Leaders generate energy, and energy doesn’t come from lackluster visions which don’t get us excited about future possibility.

Generally I do agree that partnering with others is a fantastic collaborative and creative strategy ”“ especially when you hire those who are smarter than you, and who will raise your own game. Not only can you attain greater synergy, it’s usually much more fun. In most things both in and out of business, life is not a solo proposition; we human beings feed off each other’s brains.

That said, I do believe that technology has become a very basic workplace competency expectation, and to not learn whatever might be considered the basics in your industry ”“ plus a bit more to give you a competitive edge ”“ handicaps you. It’s shortsighted and possibly foolish: Prospective employers will judge your learning capacity on a technical AND technological scale (see the difference here: Job Competencies for 2009: Let’s figure them out.)

Answer the bigger question: Why Bother?

If I may, I’d like to point you back to this posting in the archives: Can we still opt out of technology today? Take a quick look and come back: Within that article I stated that the primary “tech effect” on business today is two-fold:

  1. It’s about Competency, as mentioned above,
  2. and it’s about Communication.

It’s in this area of communication that I feel technology today is extremely exciting, particularly with social media and virtual community-building, because there are pronounced trickle effects. Maybe you’ve said “No” to Facebook, to Twitter, and to LinkedIn, and you don’t spend much time online at all; you wouldn’t dream of writing a blog. If you are reading this at all, or even the print version of The Honolulu Advertiser, I’ll bet you now know other people who have become adopters, and if they send you emails, the way they write them is now different. Whereas before they’d explain in detail, they now embed a link, or a photo, or a YouTube clip. They expect you to know about Google, and search for a definition whenever you encounter a word you don’t know instead of asking them to define it for you. Don’t feel they are being lazy: Take it as a compliment! They feel you are up to speed, and in-the-know.

From what I see, technology is getting us to talk to each other more, not less, and it’s encouraging us to welcome more people into the conversation. One of the most frequent challenges I have with managers, continually finding it within a wide spectrum of workplaces, is in getting them to network and benchmark their learning; I challenge them to reach out to others beyond their own workplace. Independent and silo work is still done where teams and interdepartmental networking would achieve far, far better results. When you are ready to lead, you must clear your insular industry hurdle as well.

The great Alaka‘i managers today push non-stop communication relentlessly; they have to if they are to achieve any competitive edge whatsoever. They also know that technology is a tool, an enabler: The truly consequential learning to be gained is to be found within other people.

So ask yourself that “Why Bother?” question for each of those 2 C’s:

Early adoption is not all it might seem

Back to the first question:

You seem to be an early adopter, but most of the managers I work with don’t embrace technology this much: How important is it that we keep up with the newest advances?

I’m not really an early adopter; I’m a right-time-for-me adopter.

For example, I have enough techie knowledge to publish my own websites, yet I’m a long-time PC user who still hasn’t made what many who do what I do would consider as the “obvious” switch to Apple’s Mac. Gadget-wise I’ve actually regressed a bit: Used to work with the Palm Pilot, but ditched it when I left the corporate world and still say “No” to the iPhone and Blackberry. My cell phone is for making and receiving phone calls, and that’s it. It has a camera, but I’ve never used it (even though I’m a big fan of Flickr), and despite all I do online, it’s not hooked up to the internet. I am well past 6,000 tweets on Twitter, but I only tweet from my laptop.

Early adoption has pros and cons, as does late adoption, and I am usually somewhere in the middle. I’m one who likes to give new advances time to get the kinks worked out. I’m not one to go to a new restaurant until they’ve been open for about six months or a year, and I feel pretty confident they’ll dazzle me with what they’ve learned since opening. I want a good meal, and a great experience!

However I love staying informed: Do I know about the newest toy on the market?
If they are on the radar of those I communicate with most, and if they matter within my Ho‘ohana, [my calling to worthwhile work] then yes, I certainly do. I find out enough relevant to my purposes.

Here’s the Alaka‘i-relevant way that I look at this: Leaders emerge in the right time of any best-selling blockbuster story, and it’s not always in the beginning.

Mahalo for the questions.

I know this was longer than usual, and I hope you stuck with me! I admit that I do love thinking about technology today and working with it, (LOVE knowing you are using those archive indexes!), and it’s so great when you ask me, “Why?” because I will gain my own reality check that way too.

“Why” is always a good question, and all Alaka‘i managers should be asking it ”“ a lot.

Let’s talk story.

So what might you be adopting these days? And what is your right-time-for-me reason: Why do you bother?


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Photo credit: Glad someone knows all this! by Rosa Say.

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