We live in a time when change is constant and the forward march of technology makes many tools obsolete in one shopping season. But why am I still waiting for the hover skateboard that Marty McFly cruised around on in Back To The Future? I do like new things, but it is possible that in our rush to innovate, we often miss the chance to understand how they change our paradigms. Many is the organization that has "rolled out" a new tech tool only to be discouraged at the disruption to business as usual. It is not as flashy and exciting as wearing Google Glass or trading in the company car for a hover craft, but leaning how we can communicate and collaborate in new ways offers us a better chance at navigating the digital maze we find ourselves in every day.
This type of change is a lot harder to "sell" because it takes a community effort. It is not something that can be ordered on Amazon Prime for next day delivery. The real significant changes that will benefit from technology are the ones where we first understand how these tools change us. Strategy then, is not about adopting something new, it is first having a dialog about where do we want to go.
Mobile phones will always disrupt and tempt users social use unless they are strategically connected to goals for business or learning. These information rich devices can overcome disruptive tendencies only when we understand how to use them. They make us all publishers instead of just consumers of information. This is a potentially huge shift in our lives so … how will we leverage this?
In a similar way, video games have long been scorned as side tracking students learning focus. These applications, it turns out, are much more invested in teaching users than just a time sucking romp through a virtual world. When brought into the classroom or training session, games can be effectively used to open up new pathways to learning if we understand how they change us. The Internet itself is a more common example of a tool that has brought about wide scale change in our access to information but is still greatly misunderstood in how it is changing the way we perceive knowledge. If we can Google any information, some have said, that information should not be required on a test. That is a generalization but it points to our need to have a better understanding of how this tool is transforming our learning. In education and business, we have the world wide web of data at our fingertips, but less of a sense on how to filter between the junk and the treasure. Unfortunately, there is just no "app for that."
I do want to have new tools and toys crash into my regular days. I also want to understand how they change the way I live and work. I often wonder if the advent of the pencil brought a dramatic shift in a society where writing was tied to the ink well. The "new mobility" of bering able to write anywhere must have brought with it disruption and change. Over time, we have come to understand the positive connection between learning and writing that offset the disruptions. We are now all Marty McFly in the Delorean time machine dazzled with the possibilities of our new tools and gadgets. When we take a little more time to look beyond the shiny facade we will find that the greatest value of technologies is in how as a society we figure out how to leverage their value together. We may not ever get to go back to the future or fly in a car, but how well we understand where we are going will define our journey.