Idea: Learn to Use New Technology Without Joining the Cult

Some reading this can remember the early days of desktop publishing when people who had never before heard the term “font” were suddenly given the ability to fill up a document with a dozen different typefaces in all sizes and styles. So they did. And the results were awful.

It took years for many people to discover (and some still haven’t) that it’s how you use design- and editorial-related technology that determines the quality and effectiveness of your creation.

But the anyone-can-do-it phenomenon didn’t stop with desktop publishing.

Each time new technical tools and capabilities are introduced, we’re led by the creators and early adopters of new technologies to believe the product by itself will lead us to some data-rich promised land. But what people do with the new technology at first tends to be as bad as a circa-1987 desktop publishing document.

The Circle, the recent best-selling novel by Dave Eggers, is a sweeping look at what can go wrong when people embrace a new technology (a souped-up form of social media) as the solution to every problem facing individuals and society.

As you can guess, the book is getting pushback from readers who have already decided social media and big data are the answers to every problem facing individuals and society. Readers who like a decent techno-thriller and don’t have a Twitter account tend to enjoy it.

We encourage you always to be open to new technology and the new forms of content, media and connections it can enable. But remember—it’s all a work in progress. Don’t join the cult. Don’t lose your perspective. Don’t do away with the old before the new has worked out its kinks.

Most important, focus on using technology to serve your customers and don’t buy into any notions that suggest the use of technology, alone, is the solution.

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