Today, as you go through your work day, your goal is to solve as many problems as you can. For most of us, that is what our work consists of: solving challenges that pop up consistently through the day. Luckily, since our society has advanced a bit, the problems that we face aren’t the dire ones that faced our ancestors, like mystery blights destroying our crops or hordes of marauding barbarians. For us, it might be finding prospective clients, balancing the books, or managing different personalities on a project.
Just like our ancestors, we consistently look to technology to solve our problems. They used irrigation and walls; we use social media and high-speed internet connections. But just like our ancestors, if we think all we need to do to solve a problem is add technology, we’ll wind up disappointed. Technology can be a very useful tool, but it’s just a tool. A hammer lying there doesn’t help – a hammer in the hands of a craftsman (someone who knows how use it) can build a house, a hospital, a library… you get the point.
For example, I spend lots of my time teaching people how to use LinkedIn and other social media for professional networking. Used correctly, these sites are incredibly useful and help build stronger networks and individual relationships – which leads to more and better business. But anyone who is bad at networking and tries to put the band-aid of LinkedIn over the problem just becomes someone who is bad at networking with less time on their hands.
Don’t look to technology to be the shortcut solution to business problems. That new website, iPad app, or shipping service might be a part of the solution, but it can only be a part of the solution. If you don’t put in the effort to solve your challenges at a foundational level, they’ll just pop up again down the line. For example, if your organization is incredibly chaotic, just giving everyone a new time-management program will only be a short-term fix. You have to wrestle with the roots of a problem (which, unfortunately, is rarely easy and rarely quick). You have to develop the skills and abilities that will determine how well you use the technology – just like the craftsman has to learn how to use a hammer well.
There are no easy answers to challenges – the empty promise of technology is that it is the only answer you need. Don’t be fooled.