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Jan 16

Tea Leaves and Technology

The centuries-old art of tasseography, or reading of tea leaves, is at risk of extinction. The mysteries of having someone with a psychic gift discover meaning in the remnants of a cup of tea has already been eroded by our instantly accessible media. A quick online search not only reveals the tea leaf patterns for anyone to interpret, but also gives instruction on how to prepare the cup of tea for a reading. A part of this practice now requires additional steps to expose the tea leaves in the first place. In our constant drive to “improve” our lives and automate almost every process, we first captured all of the tea in little tasteless bags to keep bits of our future from remaining in the cup. The latest innovation has been to hide the tea in individual servings hermetically sealed in a K-cup. In a leap of faith, we believe that this container is labeled correctly and actually contains something resembling old-fashioned tea. Who cares if the ability to tell the future is not available to us anymore? We have instant gratification…a perfectly brewed cup of tea in seconds…and we rarely have time to think about the future anyway.

Technology has done a lot to improve our lives. While members of the Boomer Generation sometimes struggle to keep up, my 1-year old granddaughter, the beginning of Gen(Whatever), has already successfully unlocked her father’s Android phone on more than one occasion. We seem to be caught between the opinion that “there ain’t nothing like the good old days” and a drive for “I can do anything and I want more, now, faster.” If we listen without analyzing, we are lured into choosing one of the polarized opinions about these outlooks. Upon closer attention, the casual observation that these are opposing viewpoints can be offset by selecting the appropriate lens to look closer at technology. In reality, either side of the issue, both sides or somewhere in between could be true.

Adopting technology for technology sake is not progress

Infatuation with technology is contagious and it is easy to believe that the tech solution is always the best solution. Without measurable results that sustain some sort of improved economy, efficiency or results, the reality is that nothing has actually changed. In fact the application of technology may actually be more costly and result in overcomplicating an otherwise simple process. How many “as advertised on TV” kitchen gadgets end up in a box in the attic because they are more trouble than they are worth? Similarly, in business there are predictable recurring software upgrades with the only visible benefit apparently being a later version number. This is not progress. If such an improvement makes data incompatible with other systems or consumes more than it gives then it may not be a wise choice. A life cycle analysis of any new system is necessary before investing resources that will require adoption of a new process or procedure. It is important to question whether or not the return on investment of money, time and energy is really worth it.

Innovation does not require technology

Too much emphasis is placed on technology when the interaction between people is sometimes the key. A good example is company performance appraisal software. Used as a tool it can be very helpful in standardizing, expediting and collecting data. If it becomes a substitute for management involvement with their employees then nobody benefits. Employee interaction and feedback is not an annual or semi-annual milestone or a pay raise exercise generated by computers. Communication between managers and those whom they manage is a continuous process and involves ongoing feedback and rewards. Giving managers the tools to do this also involves understanding the importance of maintaining this relationship. Education and training is the answer…not a surrogate computer application. An organization with a culture that abandons the recognition of the value of an individual will become lifeless and robotic.

Replacing real thinking with technology is not the best choice

Modern job boards create the fantasy that looking for a job can be done from a chair. While they are a useful part of the process and have done wonders in making the search for new jobs more efficient, they are only one chess piece in the job search game. Only moving the pawns will never win the game. Thinking diagonally is more difficult but also gives more chances for success. Incorporating online technologies as only one tool in the total plan of action is more realistic. Another tool is the strategy of being somebody’s employee referral into a new opportunity and this takes personal involvement. Also, the use of social media enhances networking with others, but none of the faceless online methodologies will be a substitute for face-to-face meetings. A cup of coffee and actual verbal dialog beats out tweets and IMs. A firm handshake trumps an email.

Using advances in technology to replace human interaction is laziness

Recruiters, being human beings with busy schedules and conflicting priorities have found that applicant tracking systems can replace the hard part of the job, communicating with applicants. For some strange reason, management doesn’t see the problem with this and actually encourages non-recruiting activities that compete with real candidate interaction. There seems to be the idea that automation allows us to do more with less when the actual result is reducing people to mere numbers. It is a great thing that we have the ability to measure and analyze data more accurately and use it for improving the process. It is a colossal failure when the process becomes bland and impersonal. That almost-silent sucking sound that is just barely heard is the black hole absorbing the life out of the process. A positive candidate experience is important in order to expand the network of viable candidates and sustain company growth. Recruiters beware! The next step in the evolution of a purely systematic hands-off approach would be to replace robotic recruiters with actual robots if there is no value added by your presence.

Hopefully, this is an objective analysis and not generationally biased. Older generations that reject the advance of technology are missing out on the advantages they offer. Newer generations who reject history are probably racing past the lessons already learned and will relearn things the hard way. Regardless of our personal situation, everyone should applaud technology, embrace it and use it to improve our personal lives, our work and our intellectual capacity. We must find that comfortable balance between the extremes because if we depend on technology for everything we take away from the experience of living. If we use it to enhance our lives, we will be richer for the experience. Now have another cup of tea…prepared any way that gives you pleasure.

 

1 comment

1 ping

  1. Jim McAllister

    Tom:

    Nicely put – technology should be used to make the connection process more efficient, however, the face to face connection must be made if companies are to remain viable businesses.

    Take care,

    Jim

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