Technological Comfort Zone28 Oct 2010
Everyone has a technology comfort zone, as I’m writing this I’m using an online blogging platform called WordPress that is easy to set up and use for anyone and has the most features with the lowest possible price, free. Yet it’s important that we distinguish the difference between what is our technology comfort zone verses our technology limitations and understand those differences otherwise we risk putting ourselves into a position where we are either paying a lot for something or working way to hard when there are easier and better solutions to our problems.
An example can be given when someone at your work uses Excel to build a database of information or a general form verses using a database program like Access, the best tool for the job might be the database but in many circumstances people prefer to use the spreadsheet because they think they understand it better than this other complicated program. Though some may argue that this is a limitation, in fact I believe it to be more of a comfort zone issue than a limit. Comfort can be seen as something that I do because I don’t want to learn or take the time to use this other thing, while limits is something that is physically impossible to do right now because of cost constraints or other variables. I’m not going to create a search engine database that’s better than Google because I’m physically limited by the number of servers I can deploy verses Google’s massive infrastructure. The same thing can be said about switching phones, I’m physically limited with the phone that I have because I cannot afford a smart phone right now verses I can afford one but I don’t want to take the time to learn to use it or get the most out of it.
You see this all over in Corporate society today, you have people who are great at their jobs but think technology should be relegated to the IT department and thus close their minds from any possibility that could make their work flow easier and better as well as help them become more productive. In many cases IT people don’t help either because they lock down most corporate computers and thus prevent people from making creative work flow possible because they are limited by what the technology guys at the company know how to do. Take it from a Computer Scientist, most IT departments don’t know much about technology and are driven mostly by the latest tool released by Microsoft, Oracle or SAP. The reason why these companies make so much money from all of their liscensing agreements is because they love the idea of a technology comfort zone in Corporate America. If you are comfortable using Office and Windows you will have no desire nor need to branch out into other products and thus they have you as a customer for life.
Apple does this well in the Home Computer market by reducing the technological learning curve on all their devices and thus locking people into always wanting to buy the latest Macbook laptop or iPhone/iPad. So why is this even an issue or why right about it? Well in many cases from my experiences what people may think is a technology limitation is in fact a technology comfort zone and they don’t even realize it. The biggest area I find this in is Open Source software or free non licensed software, in many cases even if you tell an individual that there is free software out there that can do the same thing they are paying someone to do, the fact that there may be a small learning curve forces the user to shell out a ton of money that in many cases they simply cannot afford or don’t have the budget for.
I’m sorry but the days of saying I’ll leave that for the IT department to do is over, small companies realize this as more and more employees are learning skill sets and using technology they would have never used or learned about in a large corporation. If you are at your job and you do something constantly or repeatedly, try and think of how you could use technology to do it faster or better, in the end you may think that saving files in a share folder verses using SharePoint or even a free Content Management System like Alfresco might be better and easier for you in the short term, but you are selling yourself short. It’s understandable if you are part of an older generation that just recently learned how to use computers and are somewhat set in your ways, but if you are under 30 and you think that you won’t have to learn these tools and technologies in the long run, you’re deadly mistaken. Your job and your future ability to get a job rely on your willingness to turn what you think is a limitation into a comfort and go beyond it in the long run.