At some point, many of us have purchased a cool new gadget or downloaded an awesome new app that is supposed to enhance our productivity, help us achieve some awesome goal, or help us do something we’ve never done before.
Perhaps we and/or our organization purchased an expensive set of golf clubs, the priciest software (i.e. SaaS) solution, or the best audio/video editing software in the market.
The problem is that state-of-the-art tools don’t do much to help people unless they already possess the underlying skills and understanding to make the greatest use of it. Unfortunately, due to some pretty incredible marketing, we end up convincing ourselves we need the absolute best tools in order to be successful. What often ends up happening is we get overwhelmed by the technology, distracted, and end up using less than 20% of its capability. This leads to a waste of money and/or failing to achieve a goal.
A tool is only useful if you have the understanding and underlying know-how to use it adequately. Furthermore, you have to have a purpose first, then a strategy/model/plan to achieve your goal, and finally can you then begin to consider the appropriate tools to employ. Then and only then do tools take on a clear meaning, become easier to learn, and stand the chance of delivering results.
This problem is evident in education where districts prematurely commit to major investments in technology and in corporations that purchase or acquire new processes or tools without a clear problem to solve. Organizations end up training people on the tools or integrating the processes first and then try to find places to use it, thus putting the proverbial cart before the horse.
Problems and opportunities must drive our need for tools. Tools are developed in response to and in order to solve problems. Purchasing a tool without a problem to solve or an opportunity to pursue is like buying a hammer and not having a nail to hit.
Consider these steps next time you are faced with this dilemma.
- Identify the problems and opportunities in your organization that you intend to address.
- Ensure you have or design a model/strategy/plan for solving the problem or addressing the opportunity.
- If you don’t have a model/strategy/plan, then learn more about your problem or opportunity and understand it in depth.
- Identify and evaluate the tools available to help you reach your goal.
- Finally, select and employ the tools that best fit/align with your particular plan and be open to switching tools when necessary.
In the case of opportunities, there may be a great deal of learning to do before tools are even considered. For instance, education has yet to understand how technology truly enhances learning outcomes. According to a report published by the OECD, “there is little solid evidence that greater computer use among students leads to better scores in mathematics and reading.” Before education can even make effective use of education technology, it will need to identify the opportunities and goals it wants to pursue.
Lastly, do keep in mind that most tech tools today come and go rather quickly, so while you are learning about your problem or opportunity and designing a plan, new and better tools may emerge that you will be better positioned to enjoy.