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Why technology is no longer an option

If it feels like the pace of technology change is accelerating that’s because it is. Each major technological step forward spurs further advances exponentially: think of how the combination of cloud computing and smartphone uptake has driven the multitude of apps and other services that we rely on for work and life.

Here’s another observation to make you feel less overwhelmed (or, at least, feel that your overwhelm is justified). None of the following tools we use on a daily basis existed 10 years ago: online Office365, Zoom, Slack, MS Teams, and the current iteration of Google Chat. WhatsApp just misses the decade cut off—it was launched in 2009. And 2007, only 13 years ago, was a bumper year for tech, seeing the launch of the iPhone, Android and Kindle.

So, it’s unsurprising that anxiety around technology is a very real thing. But previously where you could possibly get away with claiming to be a technophobe and being slow to adopt new technologies, or always relying on a colleague or family member to do the modern day equivalent of programming the video machine for you, in a post-COVID world you no longer have a choice. You need to learn to help yourself with the basics and what you need to do your job, or you will miss out on essential information and collaboration at work, and essential human interaction and mental health advantages at home. Previously your colleagues might have begrudgingly WhatsApped or emailed you because you’d never got the hang of Slack (where everyone else was hanging out), but today that is going to be less likely a concession they are willing to make.

This might sound daunting, and a bit harsh. But the upside has the potential to be profound. Take an octogenarian in a care facility isolated due to the pandemic. Thanks to technology they can now keep in daily audiovisual contact with family and friends, and continue with their day-to-day interests in an extraordinarily expanded way: from enjoying performances from leading artists anywhere in the world, to webinars on any topic under the sun, to participating in hobbies and crafts with a global community, to quiz nights with family members across the globe. Our physical worlds might have shrunk, but we have the capacity to expand our virtual worlds in an unprecedented way.

Likewise in the workplace where online collaboration is more important than ever before and face-to-face time is going to be non-existent or, at best, greatly reduced. But the entry requirement for being part of these conversations, meetings, pitches and brainstorm sessions is at least a basic working knowledge of the main technology platforms your colleagues, suppliers and clients use. Also advisable is a change in mindset and an updated way of working: things like information overload and document revision hell can be avoided if you concentrate on a few channels, and don’t insist documents are also emailed to you, and then stored locally. Or even worse, printed out. After the initial learning curve, the efficiencies and streamlining you achieve by adjusting the way you work will reduce the overwhelm significantly.

Where to start?

1. Not five minutes before your first Zoom call. Download and install new software in advance and familiarise yourself with it before a crucial presentation or meeting.

2. Expect a learning curve: everyone goes through it to some degree, and the curve starts to flatten the more you learn.

3. Expect technology to be weird sometimes: even tech firms that spend a lot of time and attention on user experience are typically iterating so fast that now and again bugs creep in (and are hopefully quickly removed). Know that sometimes it’s the tech, and not you.

4. Ask for help: early adopters typically love showing colleagues the best way to do things, and they’ll also pass on etiquette tips, such as always mute your mic on a video conference call unless you are speaking.

5. Learn how to Google any issues you are having. Chances are someone else has had the same issue and has created an explainer video or article answering your exact question.

The good news is that tech adoption becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. The more comfortable you become, the less tech anxiety you’ll experience, and you’ll learn more and start customising your tools to work for you, reducing your anxiety even further.

Because one thing we know for sure, is that the only constant is change. And to paraphrase Nick Davis, faculty chair of corporate innovation at the Singularity University: 2020 might be the fastest rate of change we have experienced to date, but, thanks to the multiplier effect of technology, it’s going to be the slowest year going forward. And what is at stake is not whether or not you miss the latest episode of your favourite series because you can’t set the video machine (not to mention that today you’re streaming it on demand anyway) but whether or not you miss a significant portion of your life experience at work and at home.

As published on AccountancyWeb - July 2020


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