Gain An Advantage: Five Crippling Mistakes People Make With Technology
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Gain An Advantage: Five Crippling Mistakes People Make With Technology

I often comment that technology is just a tool. It's not magic, nor mysterious, it is just a tool. I do admit that some aspects can be complicated, and if one adds together all the technology we face in life, it can get overwhelming. However, it is just a tool in the end, but a very powerful tool to be sure. Those who master it have a distinct advantage over those who do not. We all choose to what extent we invest time into adding technology skills to our lives - be that social tools, devices, software applications, or operating systems. The scary thing is that most people lack even the semblance of a plan. They just roll along grabbing at pieces when it fits in their lives, or when they are embarrassed into it.

In an effort to actually be helpful, and not just a critic, I submit to you the following list of mistakes that I see people make. And, on the other side of the mistakes, some advice on how to improve the situation.

1. Failing to invest time learning - An older gentleman asked me a really simple question the other day, he said, "Is it hard to learn how to use Facebook and Twitter?" It stopped me for a second because I have never really given it much thought. I shared with him that I think they are both pretty simple to learn, you just have to dive in and use them for a while, and choose the right tools along the way to help you use them wisely. In truth, technologists have been working for a couple of decades to make technology easier to use, and I think they are making great progress. The fact that millions of people can pick up an iPhone and figure it out in a few days is witness to that. Or, that millions can use Facebook or Twitter each day without any kind of tech support. Although it is really not difficult to learn how to use new technologies in most cases, it does take time and that is something you must be willing to invest. It is an investment after all, and you should expect a return. Be honest with yourself, do you invest an appropriate amount of time learning how to use new technology tools?

2. Failing to upgrade often enough - In this case, I am referring to both hardware and software. I regularly see people who are very dependent on a laptop using something that must have been discontinued during the Clinton years. I see people using software versions that are 2 or 3 releases behind. If your phone does not do email, you need to upgrade. I am not suggesting that everyone stand in line at the Apple store so they can get the next iAddictiveToy, but operating with gear that is lacking in features or performance is like hammering nails with brick. It can get the job done, but not very efficiently. If you buy a hammer it might be productive for your lifetime. When you buy technology, it has a shelf life that expires at the point where a newer version would provide benefits that provide a clear return on the upgrade investment.

3. Fearing experimentation - This is an insidious crippler. When you fear experimenting with new tools, you dramatically cut down the ability to find elegant solutions to problems, or features that could really help your performance. Fear stops you from taking steps forward, and in this case, it is often the fear of failure, fear of complexity, fear of embarrassment, or just plain old fear of the unknown. I understand the concept of these fears. I also know that the price you will pay for succumbing to them is high. As with anything else in life, fear is a self made barrier that rarely serves a good purpose. In this case, it will stop you from prospering at times.

4. Choosing blind ignorance as a path - This one plain frustrates me. Some people just turn a blind eye to technology tools much like the ostrich sticks its head in the sand (if they really do that.) The fact is, just about anything in life can be done without the aid of technology, and many people have been doing things that way for decades. So it is convenient to simply go on operating without change - the upside being that you don't have to think hard, or risk change. They live their lives with a vague sense that the rest of the world is using technology, but they stridently refuse to ask themselves why, or seek to even learn enough to understand what the tools actually do. Ignorance is not really bliss - it is just lazy.

5. Believing that technology is the only solution - Just to keep this balanced, the last crippler is believing that technology is the best tool for everything. It is not. Technology is a great augmenting factor in lots of things, but there are other ways to do many of the things technology does, and in some cases, much better. For example, technology facilitates conversations - in fantastic ways at this point. But there are times when talking to people face to face is the most effective way to communicate, and I mean sitting across the table from each other, not on the screen. There are times when creating our own unique content is a better idea than harvesting content from the Web. And there are times when just trying something out for ourselves, instead of basing a decision on a social rating site, is the best path.

There is a widening gap in the capabilities, value, and quality of life between those that are good with technology tools and those that lag. As humanity progresses, this breach will grow further. Too many people live their lives unconsciously when it comes to the technology they could be using. Don't be one of them.

Published: November 9th, 2011

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