BUSINESS WISDOM

The Clown

Jeffrey L. Bromberger, Senior Pontificator

03 August 2021

Technology has been lying to us, about how great it is, for years.  The worst lie of all, we insist how much we love drowning in this new technology.  We love the lie so much, it seems that we crave being lied to.

Think about where we are in the world today, as compared to yesterday.

Ever really look at a car or truck from the 1950s or 1960s?  I don’t mean the styling, but the functionality of it.  It got you from Point A to Point B with the least amount of fuss and fluff.  And today?  Beneath all of the fun features and thrilling add-ons?  It still all boils down to moving you from one place to another, albeit with loads of new features, each of which are prone to breakage.  It isn’t as if we’ve got Jetsons “space cars” these days, or vehicles that can travel backwards in the time continuum, it’s still just a car underneath all of the expensive and flashy perks.  And when a new car breaks, it’s hundreds of dollars to fix and weeks at a shop (primarily because you can’t fix it by yourself any longer).  It is still a car.

If you’re old enough to remember going to elementary school in the early 1970s, we were promised an “office of the future” by now.  Pencils and pens would be retired, as everything would be digital.  Beside the obvious lack of need for math, spelling and handwriting, the whole concept of a “paperless” office was just over the horizon.  And here we are, 50 years in the future, and the best-selling peripheral for the average computer (home or office) is still a printer.  It may be just me, but hasn’t the amount of paper related to general business just seemed to increase as opposed to being reduced?  Business has moved forwards, but it is still business.  Some things can never change.  Paper lives on.

Software has not escaped the same grand machine.  Consider something as simple as word processing.  Let’s look as Microsoft Word 95 as an example.  We’re not talking ancient here – this is only 25 years ago, the version Gen X really got to use.  Would you believe that you could load this on your PC from a small handful of floppy disks?  Yeah, software was small compared to today, where bloat rules and the physical installer, if there is one, serves to download more parts from the Internet before you get to use them.  The older executable was small basically because the menus and number of options were small.  Everything lived comfortably under the same basic categories (“File”, “Edit”, “View”, a few others, and then “Help”).  And if you knew barely more than where your thumbs were attached to your hands, you could make a pretty reasonable document with this product.  This wasn’t a piece of lightweight junk but it wasn’t rocket science either – it was business ready, which was just what the world hungered for at the time.

But look at Word these days.  It is huge (what an understatement) and even when it’s installed, there are still parts that need on-line connectivity so that they function correctly.  Forget the days of simple menus – we presently have a “ribbon” that has spread out all of the dropdown menu items into a smear of space across the top of your screen.  It holds more options than you had on the initial dropdowns, but why? There are features here, I guarantee you, that you don’t know exist, you don’t know how to use them, and you’d probably be unsure as to why you’d even want to use them. Even if there is only one “right” way to do something, there are probably 50 other ways that, though not as elegant, will get you the same outcome at the end.  You’re technically no better off now than you were 25 years ago.

There’s just not enough NOW to go around anymore.

In summary, technology, pretty much across the board, has not made life easier for us, but has in fact made it more difficult.  It consumes more and more of your time, and you are required to learn complex systems just to get the simple and mundane accomplished.  The days of the software working for you are long gone.  Nothing is simple anymore, and it’s not because life has gotten significantly harder or you’ve grown inescapably dumber.

Except in some rare cases, technology has generally not vastly improved your life.  Changed, yes, but probably not always for the better.

In the land of on-line video conferences at all hours of the day, the kingdom of “did you get that thing I sent ya?”, the universe of 24×7 broadband connectivity (or 5G, if you ever dare to step away from your computer), technology has grown and, in doing so, expanded to consume those last free moments of your life. Let that sink in for a moment.  Savor the flavor, as they say.  If you’re reading this on your phone in a bathroom, then you know exactly what I mean…

You’re buried under emails that all demand to be answered NOW.  There’re meetings, and, of course, you have to attend them NOW.  Voice mails that have to be returned NOW, along with calls to be made NOW.  Documents that needed to be done yesterday are still in your inbox, so you are stuck having to do it NOW.  You get where I’m going with this.

There’s just not enough NOW to go around anymore.  And there’s a limited amount of NOW in any one person’s lifetime.  You need to find a way to clean up the mess you are currently sitting in.  You need to come up with a strategy to manage what’s coming down the pipe towards you.  You need to find an efficient flow so that you can turn things around and get it on down the road and out of your world.  You need to make sense of the tools available to you so that you can get on down to your business and not get tangled up in the devil’s snare of technological whiz-bangs and fluffy features.  You need focus.

The secret to making sense of it all?  Unplug for a change and live your best, real, life.  It doesn’t matter whether you go for a bike ride, spend an afternoon puttering around with an instrument or passing the time with friends and family around a fire or barbecue.  Trust me on this one.  Somewhere, there’s a lake where the fish are calling your name.  Take on their challenge – the work will always be there when you get back.

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