technology should push us as well as pull us
If you’ve followed my Tweets over the last few days you’ll know that I have changed my mobile (cell) ‘phone last week. This was part of a long overdue strategic issue for me; overdue because I had been procrastinating about making the change from something that I used for calls, and the odd text, to something that made sense as an integrated office tool for the itinerant way of working that is my life.
I was an early adopter of the mobile telephone, my first use coming back in 1986 with something that had a battery pack the size (and the weight) of a pair of house bricks above which sat a full sized handset. It needed charging at least once a day, but it served me well as I spent the final weeks of ’86 and the first quarter of ’87 travelling around the South East of England. It wedged in between the front seats of my borrowed Ford Sierra.
Having the ‘phone was the only way that my boss would release me to work for a sister company, but after the first couple of weeks he rarely used it. For me though it became a really useful tool as I had around thirty offices to look after as Regional Purchasing Manager and it meant that the one person that I had in each office could always find me.
When I had to give it back and return to my ivory tower role as a corporate strategist I only really missed it if I had a day out somewhere; it had only ever been a tool and I had no use for it any more.
Come 1990 I was running a large logistics operation and MBWA (or GOYA) was my style so I could be anywhere around three warehouses or two offices on site at any given moment. One of our main customers insisted that I have a mobile and so, with some reluctance, I gave in and within weeks it had become an integral part of the way that I worked. I finally gave up that number when I left corporate life 18 years later at which point I acquired the number I use today.
But until recently my mobile was only ever a ‘phone; people would call or text me and I would ring them back and my £9.99 pay as I went ‘phone was the butt of many a joke. It worked though, and it did what I needed for very little cost.
Over the last year or so the potential of a smart ‘phone has become obvious and this week I’ve taken the plunge. The benefit has been immediate, but I think that much of that so far has been because I had worked out what I wanted to do with it; it’s a tool rather than a toy, but I do marvel at the capability, and possibilities. It is so far beyond the science fiction of my boyhood.
We now have devices and software that allows the individual to access a lot from something that will fit into the pocket. For me the first benefit is in terms of decision making, because I can, with a few movements of a finger or two, find out so much in a few minutes. The challenge now is to push its capability to help me even further and find ways of using the opportunities it brings to do things that I hadn’t thought of.
Technology may solve our problems, but unless we set it new ones we won’t continue to advance. A bit like us humans really.
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