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Is Technology the Key to Success in the 21st Century?

Is Technology the Key to Success in the 21st Century?

Technology advances by leaps and bounds. It seems like we’re always fighting to stay current on tech trends. Consumers aren’t alone in this race for the hottest products and services on the market. Many businesses are also eager to jump on the tech bandwagon.

Sometimes companies don’t do well on the cutting edge. The Daily, a digital newspaper that sought to ride the wave of success caused by the iPad, is a classic example. This e-newspaper showed promise, but wound up being a colossal flop.[1]

Today, reading a newspaper on a tablet requires no stretch of the imagination. The Washington Post, The New York Times, and other major papers offer e-subscriptions. If The Daily had the right idea, why did it fail?

    It wasn’t that the idea of an e-paper was bad. The combination of a clunky interface, a bad business model, an unclear mission, and high overhead made the paper unsustainable.[2]

    The Daily led with technology. They didn’t put as much focus on developing a user-friendly paper as they should have. They were trying to operate in a digital age with an analog mindset. They saw the importance of using tech to publish their stories, but they didn’t understand how to do that.

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    What We Think Technology Can Do

    Using technology doesn’t guarantee that we’ll be successful, but many feel that tech holds the key to success. Technology has always defined our culture. From the invention of the wheel to the 21st century marvels of information technology, our way of life is tied to innovation.

    We see success stories from wealthy public figures such as Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, and Jeff Bezos. All eyes are on Silicon Valley, and we’re all waiting to see what’s going to change our world next.

    Upload a viral YouTube video, make a Facebook page that people like, become famous on Instagram, or build your own app, and you, too, can have the power and influence of someone like Steve Jobs. This flawed thinking gives people the idea that technology is the way to be successful.

      Since so many people believe that anyone can achieve success through technology, tech has become step one in solving problems–whether or not it’s appropriate.

      What Technology Can Actually Do

      Using technology for the sake of using technology doesn’t work.

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      When people grapple with technology without a plan, they fail miserably. Tech doesn’t guarantee greatness. Good ideas stick around, and poorly executed ideas die. Thoughtlessly relying on technology is a liability, not an asset.

        Maybe it’s because so much of what makes technology work is unknown to the average person. Perhaps we’ve seen the successes of greats like Mark Zuckerberg without recognizing their struggles. Whatever the case, many of us believe that using technology is the easy answer.

        Without having a deep understanding of technology and how it can address a clearly-defined question, the idea will fail every time. Look at The Daily. They knew they wanted to created a newspaper available on the iPad, but they didn’t understand the technology. They created a substandard product that didn’t solve any problems.

        Ideas First, Technology Second

        Reaching for technology without a clear purpose isn’t going to get you anywhere. Come up with an idea first. Then, if technology is the best way to solve the problem or answer the question, use it.

        Technology makes it possible for us to do much more than we could do without it, but it can’t help us decide what to do. It can’t teach us how to ask great research questions. Technology is the tool that you use to solve the problem, but it isn’t the thing that creates the solution.

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        As long as you get the order right—idea first and tech second— you can achieve success. When you have a clearly-defined issue or concept, then you can adapt technology to accelerate progress.

          As you’re coming up with ideas, stay away from using technology just because it’s there. Remember, lead with a great idea, and then follow with technology. Think about the following questions to stay true to your purpose:

          What do you want to achieve?

          You should have a clear question or goal in mind before you even think about how an app or piece of tech could solve it. For example, imagine you are tired of paying high rates for taxis or chasing down inconvenient public transportation. You need to come up with a better way to get around.

          How do you think you can solve the problem without technology?

          Does the problem exist because non-tech solutions aren’t helping? In many cases, it’s logical to jump to technology because non-tech solutions haven’t solved the problem. You won’t know unless you do some thinking and research.

          When you consider your transportation problem, think about possible solutions. Shuttles, public transportation, and bothering your friends for rides are either inconvenient or expensive. Besides building a more efficient public transportation system, which would require billions in infrastructure, you can’t imagine a solution to this transportation issue without technology.

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          Focus on the why and how of the problem.

          The problem exists because there’s a gap in the service that’s currently available. You have to think about why the gap exists and how you might be able to navigate around it.

          Thinking about the transportation issue, you realize that cab companies are subject to lots of regulations. State and local governments may not be able to fund better public transportation. Your friends have better things to do than pick you up all the time. You have to get around the issue somehow.

          In this case technology has the power to close the gap. It connects people willing to drive with those who needed rides for a fraction of the cost of a cab. This is how Uber and Lyft came to be.

          Technology Is Not the Answer to All

          Technology can’t come into play until you’ve thought about your problem from every angle. If you’ve tried other approaches, and they don’t seem to work, then you can think about how to accelerate the process.

          Only then is it appropriate to turn to technology. By defining your purpose first, you ensure that you aren’t just reaching for technology because it seems sleek and shiny. It’s actually going to make it easier for you to solve the problem. The tech isn’t the solution. Your ideas bring about the solution. Technology just makes it easier.

          Tech is reshaping our world every day. It makes our lives easier and opens possibilities for us. Just because you can use technology doesn’t mean you should turn to it first. Start with your ideas and use technology to support your efforts.

          Featured photo credit: Photo by Alex Knight on Unsplash via unsplash.com

          Reference

          More by this author

          Leon Ho

          Founder & CEO of Lifehack

          Learning Methods to Help You Learn Effectively and Easily How to Take Advantage of the 80 20 Rule to Succeed in Life How to Find a Sense of Purpose to Live a Full Life How to Set Professional Development Goals for Success Social Learning How Social Learning Helps You Learn Faster and Easier

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          Last Updated on September 30, 2020

          Effective vs Efficient: What’s the Difference Regarding Productivity?

          Effective vs Efficient: What’s the Difference Regarding Productivity?

          When it comes to being effective vs efficient, there are a lot of similarities, and because of this, they’re often misused and misinterpreted, both in daily use and application.

          Every business should look for new ways to improve employee effectiveness and efficiency to save time and energy in the long term. Just because a company or employee has one, however, doesn’t necessarily mean that the other is equally present.

          Utilizing both an effective and efficient methodology in nearly any capacity of work and life will yield high levels of productivity, while a lack of it will lead to a lack of positive results.

          Before we discuss the various nuances between the word effective and efficient and how they factor into productivity, let’s break things down with a definition of their terms.

          Effective vs Efficient

          Effective is defined as “producing a decided, decisive, or desired effect.” Meanwhile, the word “efficient ” is defined as “capable of producing desired results with little or no waste (as of time or materials).”[1]

          A rather simple way of explaining the differences between the two would be to consider a light bulb. Say that your porch light burned out and you decided that you wanted to replace the incandescent light bulb outside with an LED one. Either light bulb would be effective in accomplishing the goal of providing you with light at night, but the LED one would use less energy and therefore be the more efficient choice.

          Now, if you incorrectly set a timer for the light, and it was turned on throughout the entire day, then you would be wasting energy. While the bulb is still performing the task of creating light in an efficient manner, it’s on during the wrong time of day and therefore not effective.

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          The effective way is focused on accomplishing the goal, while the efficient method is focused on the best way of accomplishing the goal.

          Whether we’re talking about a method, employee, or business, the subject in question can be either effective or efficient, or, in rare instances, they can be both.

          When it comes to effective vs efficient, the goal of achieving maximum productivity is going to be a combination where the subject is effective and as efficient as possible in doing so.

          Effectiveness in Success and Productivity

          Being effective vs efficient is all about doing something that brings about the desired intent or effect[2]. If a pest control company is hired to rid a building’s infestation, and they employ “method A” and successfully completed the job, they’ve been effective at achieving the task.

          The task was performed correctly, to the extent that the pest control company did what they were hired to do. As for how efficient “method A” was in completing the task, that’s another story.

          If the pest control company took longer than expected to complete the job and used more resources than needed, then their efficiency in completing the task wasn’t particularly good. The client may feel that even though the job was completed, the value in the service wasn’t up to par.

          When assessing the effectiveness of any business strategy, it’s wise to ask certain questions before moving forward:

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          • Has a target solution to the problem been identified?
          • What is the ideal response time for achieving the goal?
          • Does the cost balance out with the benefit?

          Looking at these questions, a leader should ask to what extent a method, tool, or resource meets the above criteria and achieve the desired effect. If the subject in question doesn’t hit any of these marks, then productivity will likely suffer.

          Efficiency in Success and Productivity

          Efficiency is going to account for the resources and materials used in relation to the value of achieving the desired effect. Money, people, inventory, and (perhaps most importantly) time, all factor into the equation.

          When it comes to being effective vs efficient, efficiency can be measured in numerous ways[3]. In general, the business that uses fewer materials or that is able to save time is going to be more efficient and have an advantage over the competition. This is assuming that they’re also effective, of course.

          Consider a sales team for example. Let’s say that a company’s sales team is tasked with making 100 calls a week and that the members of that team are hitting their goal each week without any struggle.

          The members on the sales team are effective in hitting their goal. However, the question of efficiency comes into play when management looks at how many of those calls turn into solid connections and closed deals.

          If less than 10 percent of those calls generate a connection, the productivity is relatively low because the efficiency is not adequately balancing out with the effect. Management can either keep the same strategy or take a new approach.

          Perhaps they break up their sales team with certain members handling different parts of the sales process, or they explore a better way of connecting with their customers through a communications company.

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          The goal is ultimately going to be finding the right balance, where they’re being efficient with the resources they have to maximize their sales goals without stretching themselves too thin. Finding this balance is often easier said than done, but it’s incredibly important for any business that is going to thrive.

          Combining Efficiency and Effectiveness to Maximize Productivity

          Being effective vs efficient works best if both are pulled together for the best results.

          If a business is ineffective in accomplishing its overall goal, and the customer doesn’t feel that the service is equated with the cost, then efficiency becomes largely irrelevant. The business may be speedy and use minimal resources, but they struggle to be effective. This may put them at risk of going under.

          It’s for this reason that it’s best to shoot for being effective first, and then work on bringing efficiency into practice.

          Improving productivity starts with taking the initiative to look at how effective a company, employee, or method is through performance reviews. Leaders should make a point to regularly examine performance at all levels on a whole, and take into account the results that are being generated.

          Businesses and employees often succumb to inefficiency because they don’t look for a better way, or they lack the proper tools to be effective in the most efficient manner possible.

          Similar to improving a manager or employee’s level of effectiveness, regularly measuring the resources needed to obtain the desired effect will ensure that efficiency is being accounted for. This involves everything from keeping track of inventory and expenses, to how communication is handled within an organization.

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          By putting in place a baseline value for key metrics and checking them once changes have been made, a company will have a much better idea of the results they’re generating.

          It’s no doubt a step-by-step process. By making concentrated efforts, weakness can be identified and rectified sooner rather than later when the damage is already done.

          Bottom Line

          Understanding the differences between being effective vs efficient is key when it comes to maximizing productivity. It’s simply working smart so that the intended results are achieved in the best way possible. Finding the optimal balance should be the ultimate goal for employees and businesses:

          • Take the steps that result in meeting the solution.
          • Review the process and figure out how to do it better.
          • Repeat the process with what has been learned in a more efficient manner.

          And just like that, effective and efficient productivity is maximized.

          More on How to Improve Productivity

          Featured photo credit: Tim van der Kuip via unsplash.com

          Reference

          [1] Merriam-Webster: effective and efficient
          [2] Mind Tools: Being Effective at Work
          [3] Inc.: 8 Things Really Efficient People Do

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