Yogi Berra once said, “You can observe a lot just by watching.” On a plane last week, the second we touched down, I observed most people around me switch on digital devices to check messages and send even more. In four separate executive team alignment discussions, I recently observed each CEO chiding people to put the technology weapons down and rejoin the conversation. And then there’s the TV ad where a girl breaks up with her boyfriend in a restaurant booth by texting him, leaving a voicemail and an email, and changing her Facebook status to “single.”
Like every other invention from the automobile to the micro-chip, technology is not intrinsically good or bad. It’s how we use it. But as it gets more pervasive (and invasive), we need to ask, “What value can it give us, and how do I make sure that it isn’t mindlessly taking over?”
From Mindless to Meaningful
On the other hand, technology lets us do some really cool things. Smart power grids tell us the best time, economically and environmentally, to do laundry. People bank online and visit faraway relatives using Skype. With social networks, we keep in touch with friends. Online resources save time and money and give us power to customize products and services.
In our businesses, we can use technology to enhance critical thinking, explore diverse alternatives, and scan best practices to better drive performance. A simulation can close gaps between choices and consequences so leaders can build strategic judgment skills. Blogs, portals, and other web tools go beyond looking up information, so any of us can learn to solve problems. Visually rich technologies allow us to see what success could look like. Once we better understand what we need to do, and what we need to do differently, these interactive technologies can help us practice and build skills to execute on the organizational vision for the future.
Who’s in Charge?
So it’s up to us to determine when technology will be an invaluable tool or when we let it drive us… farther apart from each other and our aspirations for our teams and companies. Here are three questions to help determine where you fall on the spectrum from Mindless to Mindful.