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Reactive Technology Choices and Unintended Consequences

There is no question that we are learning daily as we reach for technology platforms to conduct distance meetings and teach the millions of students who would normally be in classrooms.  We are all learning through trial and error that each platform has different levels of security, architecture and ease in usage. When we find ourselves […]

There is no question that we are learning daily as we reach for technology platforms to conduct distance meetings and teach the millions of students who would normally be in classrooms.  We are all learning through trial and error that each platform has different levels of security, architecture and ease in usage.

When we find ourselves in crisis the speed of reactive decisions is often staggering.  With the current public health crisis, we experience daily results of a technology laboratory fully open for business.  The technology you select to conduct a meeting with people you know well may be different than a platform you select for people you have never met before. We are already making adjustments in the use of different technology platforms for different groups in our workplaces and communities.

Unfortunately, technology will never improve the quality of meetings where the purpose and outcomes were not well articulated, nor will it improve flawed learning curriculums.  Like pandemics, poor learning curriculum and meeting designs transferred to online platforms merely fossilizes them and spreads them around.  

For many years we have become accustomed to conference calls that require us to listen attentively. With the addition of platforms that include the faces of many people, we are confronted with visual stimuli that make this type of meeting platform more exhausting for facilitators/teachers and the participants. If leaders and teachers conducting online meetings and classes are exhausted from the use of the technology we will see changes in the rate at which meetings can be scheduled as well as the rate that curriculum material can be covered.  We may need to revaluate teacher student ratios as well as facilitator attendee ratios if we continue to use these technology platforms. 

The critical decisions we ask our leaders to make particularly in a time of crisis cannot be made effectively in a state of continuous distraction. Trying to be on a conference call where decisions are made and simultaneously answer emails on your phone makes you less effective at a time when employees and citizens, are relying on their leadership the most.

Nicholas Carr wrote about this level of mental distraction and performance in 2017 when he penned How Smart Phones Hijack our Minds and David Rock and Jeffery Schwartz discuss the connections between neuroscience and leadership in their articleThe Neuroscience of Leadership.

It is incredibly important for leaders in city halls, businesses or in the classroom to introduce technology that supports their ability to accomplish mission and outcomes. Frequent articulation of mission and outcomes will help everyone to make smart technology choices that serve as a means to reaching mission, purpose and outcomes.  It will be necessary for us to admit that in many cases the current technology available will not adequately meet our needs or resolve deficiencies that were evident before this crisis. How we will readjust to deal with mission related outcomes during this difficult period is both the challenge and opportunity for the future. We are all the beginning of this forced learning process.  We have a rare opportunity to create a new and more sustainable future for all of us. Technology has an important role but must always be viewed as a means to articulated, shared outcomes.

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