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Executive Leadership: No Luddites, Please
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Executive Leadership: No Luddites, Please - Executive Leadership Articles

Executive Leadership: No Luddites, Please

Executive Leadership Articles

Executive Leadership: No Luddites, Please

In far too many organizations, tech-savvy boundary-pushers are younger employees still making their way up the ranks, while those who set company policy about technology and those who pay for it are older, less knowledgeable executives who have paid their dues but can do little more than attach a document to an email. Professional development in the use of technology may even be a huge priority in these companies, but it’s aimed at the rank and file, or management, with little participation by the men and women in the big conference room.

This is a problem if your group considers technology an important aspect of how your company gets its work done. If your C-level directors leave all the tech-related decisions to the CTO or, worse, listen to the CTO’s advice and then make decisions based on something somebody read somewhere, you may have a top-heavy slowdown in moving forward with new tech. Those who understand the newest technology have no power; those who have power don’t understand the technology. It’s hiring a football coach who hasn’t seen a game since the 1970s.

Whether you’re a self-proclaimed happy Luddite sitting in a corner office with the strong support (and advice) people you trust, or almost an expert on the technology that was relevant when you moved up but is barely in use today, being clueless about new technology puts your company at an enormous disadvantage, but there’s something you can do about it.

Computer technology can be overwhelming in its breadth and scope. It’s easy to fall behind if you stay put, and the pace at which new technology replaces older technology gets greater all the time. Neither of these is a good excuse. When the landscape shifts, and it shifts all the time, the competent executive adjusts, switching vehicles if necessary, to negotiate the new terrain. If you fear you’ve fallen too far behind to be on the bleeding edge of tech awareness, you’re only correct if you stay where you are.

Start with a technology you’re already familiar with, such as email. Do you know how email gets from your desk to the desk in the next office, and to your associate on the other side of the planet? Ask questions, fifty a day if that’s what it takes, to get a firm grasp not only on the processes this technology involves, but on the philosophical issues surrounding its use. It’s not as hard as you think, and even if it is, you’re smart enough to learn it at some kind of pace. Even baby steps are better than no steps.

When you have a good knowledge of one technology, move on to another. Expertise on email will lead you to questions about the web, or security, or other kinds of electronic communication. Pursue these threads, again taking baby steps if necessary. Or, rather than a medium-specific approach, take an app-by-app approach. What do you know about MS Word? What else can it do? What are all those other buttons and menus for? Find the Word guru among your rank and file, and spend a few minutes with him or her, learning one new thing every day. When you’ve got that down, move on to Excel or even Photoshop. If you’ve ever sent the art department an instruction to correct a graphic without understanding the processes involved—and almost everyone has—take some time to learn how it’s done. It will make it easier for you to know what’s doable and what’s not doable, and once in a while you could possibly take a few minutes to do it yourself. Then move on to InDesign, Illustrator, or any of the other publishing platforms.

These suggestions may have a kind of Romper Room sound, but this is not condescension. It’s easy to feel as if one has missed the bus on certain technologies, but a small, determined effort, one technology at a time, can eventually get you up to speed whether you consider yourself a tech person or not. You’ve already made yourself an expert on management, planning, and decision-making; it’s why you’re where you are today. Now take the brains that got you there, and catch up in this critical space. You’ll be a better leader long before you get there, just for participating in the process.


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