Ask any engineer the question, “is technology disruptive”, and the answer will be “of course!”
The result of that disruption is often that technology attracts a voodoo reputation — something to be wary of, or even feared.
It’s a reputation that is unfair and unwarranted.
We forget that we’ve become accustomed to change, and adept at embracing any technology that suits our lifestyles, or improves the way we work. We’re more comfortable about disruptive change than we once were — because we know that, once technology has done its disruptive worst, it evolves to become productive in its impact, and how it changes our lives.
This evolution process is not new, and predates IT, but the evolution process has become much faster. When I joined Lenovo in 2005, social media, online communities, the concept of cloud computing, and always-on connectivity were still evolving concepts, and most took some years to make their mark on the business mainstream (something that’s difficult now to remember!).
The most-obvious recent example is the Covid-era move to working from home. Most of us have made that transition (albeit with little choice, as it happens), and technology, although a disruption for many, has made this possible.
At first we reacted out of necessity. Now we’re moving to the productive end of this technology continuum — in as little as six months. Companies are moving from managing an abrupt change of workplace options to planning for their futures, in particular the degree to which they deploy technology to allow those of us who want to stay based at home to do so. Users are challenging the way they used technology before the lockdown. The WEF reported in June that 98% of workers wanted the option to work from home for the rest of their careers! That’s a big shift, and productive technology, hard on the heels of an initial disruptive event, continues to play its part.
That unfair voodoo reputation also often stems from concerns that technology will replace people, shut down businesses or affect livelihoods when it appears for the first time. Today, those fears revolve around technology that includes AI, machine learning, and technology security, as examples.
As an executive with an engineering background working with many businesses, listening to their needs, and leading teams that work out solutions to meet those needs, I believe it’s more the case that technology solves problems, and freeing time to consider what really matters in businesses — customer experiences and employee satisfaction.
User mobility is one example. One of the biggest pains most of us suffer is that we use multiple passwords every day. In tomorrow’s mobile world, devices will know who I am by my voice, perhaps in the context of my location, how I’m about to use my device and the network it’s attached to. If it sounds like me, if I’m acting in a way that’s consistent with who I am in the company, if the work I want to do fits what’s been seen from me in the past, it probably is me — and I can be given access rights to data and resources to be able to do my work without the current pain of having to remember multiple passwords, or of joining and leaving discrete networks.
Acknowledging that technology often starts as disruptive, and ends up being productive, how should organizations move ahead?
By addressing the business problem in new ways, using technology to drive new and different approaches to resolving those problems.
The story always needs to be about how technology is going to give you business advantage — whether it’s attracting and keeping talent, or enabling a field engineer to understand a problem more effectively, leveraging data and edge computing to make better decisions.
The questions about disruption versus innovation then become centered on the business problems for which you want to find a technology solution.
Answer those questions, and technology’s voodoo reputation around technology disappears.
I’ll expand on some of these themes in future articles, but in the meantime, let me know your thoughts on the Comments below. I’d love to start a conversation.
Jerry Paradise is a 15-year veteran of Lenovo. He is responsible for leading the team that develops the product requirements, including the technical and design specifications, for all of Lenovo’s commercial products outside the data center. Start a conversation with Jerry here, on LinkedIn or on Twitter.