Technobility: How will your new technology change you?

You did your homework, and out of a vast field of possible solutions you’ve made your choice. You’re going to implement brand ‘X’ (and hope for the best). Without knowing anything about the specific problem, the solution, or even the abilities of your organization, what can you predict about the journey ahead of your organization?

{mosimage}Here’s what you can bank on – you’re going to travel through three distinct phases: resistance, chaos, and if you’re very lucky, or talented, or both, a return on your investment.

That certain prediction of resistance combined with chaos and a tiny chance of success is more truthful than that most often offered by experts: “The implementation you’re about to undergo… will be transparent to the user.” Without delving into their source of perpetual optimism, we’re going to examine those three phases.

Resistance: Far from being a negative, the ability of your organization to resist change is a desirable attribute in all organizations. I know that perspective is contrary to everything you’ve been told about organizational  change, but how can resistance to change be anything but positive? The ability to initially resist a new idea, until there is evidence that it’s a good idea, is a necessary survival mechanism. Our only alternative is to embrace every wacky idea that stumbles into your office.

Here’s a little exercise to prove the assertion that “Resistance isn’t futile, it’s necessary.” Read your favourite business journal with pencil and paper at the ready. Read it from cover to cover and each time you encounter an interesting new idea, make note of it. Once you’ve read the whole issue, check your notes and do a rough
estimate of how much effort it would take to implement everything you stumbled across. I’ve found that a typical magazine will yield a very conservative 5-10 years of effort.

Here’s the bad news. Next month, they’re going to send you a brand new issue of that journal and it will contain even more new ideas. If resisting change was really bad, then you’d be honour bound to implement every new idea you encountered. Madness would ensue.

So, when you introduce a new technology into any organization, you will inevitably encounter resistance.  Mostly in the form of a simple, and perfectly innocent question, “Why should we change?” That question isn’t an obstacle to what you want to do, it’s more an opportunity to enlist the enthusiasm and intelligence of the person asking it – providing you can make the case for what you’re trying to do and, that you’re willing to invite the questioner to examine your reasoning. (You do have a reason – don’t you?)

Chaos: If the technology or change you’re about to inflict on your organization is intended to achieve something significant, then you’re guaranteed of only one thing, it will generate chaos long before it delivers on any of the promised benefits.

Why? Because significant change always requires the acquisition of new skills, and learning anything new always forces us into incompetence until we can access the new competencies. We can’t play the violin  perfectly on the first try and no matter how well intentioned my mom was, I could not learn how to swim before I got into the water.

Learning requires that we learn by trial and error. We learn how to swim by swallowing a prerequisite amount of water. We learn to play the violin by annoying the neighbours.

The ROI: This is the Promised Land, the destination you had in mind when you examined the original problem and then sought out a solution. This is what is delivered to your doorstep IF you jumped the dual hurdles of resistance and chaos and didn’t fall flat on your face.

The lesson here is that the ROI isn’t available to anyone just because they ‘buy’ a technological solution, any more than the ability to play Mozart’s Violin Sonata No. 36 is bestowed on you if you pay a few million for a Stradivarius.

The “Return on Investment” phrase does spell it out, and the emphasis is on the word “investment.”  unfortunately, that has come to mean only the financial component of the total cost. The investment in  significant change always has a much more important ‘human cost.’

Technology is only a lever, something we must learn to use before it can deliver the vendor promises. The truth of the matter is that there are no technological solutions to problems. All technology ever is, all it ever can be, is a tool. We can buy the tools, but they will only gather dust if we don’t learn to use them properly. Or worse, they’ll aggravate the original problem if we use them incorrectly – or if we attempt to force others to use them without explaining why we thought we needed them in the first place.

Change isn’t about technology– change is about people.

Peter de Jager is a keynote speaker and webinar creator who strives to make the complicated, as simple as possible, and no simpler. Contact him at [email protected].