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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

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          Last Updated on June 18, 2019

          14 Powerful Leadership Traits That All Great Leaders Have

          14 Powerful Leadership Traits That All Great Leaders Have

          Being a leader of a company or organization is certainly a difficult and often frustrating position – but it can also be tremendously rewarding.

          Whether you’re just starting out as a leader, or have been leading for a while, you’ll be sure to benefit from knowing the essential traits that all great leaders possess.

          Effective and successful leaders transcend the title of ‘manager’ or ‘boss’. They’ve found a way to achieve the perfect combination of charisma, enthusiasm and self-assurance (with a healthy dose of luck and timing probably added to the mix).

          It may seem like some people are gifted with leadership skills, but the truth is most leadership traits can be learned, adopted, and strengthened with time and practice.

          As we delve into the list of effective leadership traits, you will learn the behaviors and attitudes of a good leader.

          1. Vision and Mission

          Having a clear picture of what needs to be achieved is a crucial quality of good leadership.

          This vision is often communicated in a mission statement, such as this one from Starbucks:

            How to develop vision? Spend time pinpointing what you need to achieve, and then plan the steps to get there. Here’s a complete guide on creating your own vision.

            2. Self-Motivated

            It’s no coincidence that successful leaders have an abundance of self-motivation.

            Without a decent level of self-motivation, you’ll struggle to become a strong and respected leader. However, if you don’t have a lot of self-motivation right now, don’t despair.

            One of the secrets is to have definite goals to keep you motivated at all times. Some people also choose to reward themselves every time they achieve a goal, and this is certainly a good way to keep yourself enthused and motivated. Learn how to set an ambitious yet achievable goal here.

            3. Optimism and Positivity

            Positive energy is contagious. Great leaders are overflowing with this type of energy.

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            Not only does a positive mindset make leaders easy to work with, but it also gives them a constant source of inspiration and ideas.

            Tap into this energy by aligning yourself with positive people and positive goals. Find out more about the habits of positive people here.

            4. Emotional Stability

            In leadership positions, frustration and stress are daily occurrences. This is why leaders need to have strong and stable emotions. They can’t allow themselves to be easily knocked off track.

            If you’re prone to losing your emotional stability when stressed or frustrated, try some of these techniques: breath deeply and slowly for 30 seconds, go for a walk, drink some water (instead of tea or coffee), turn your focus onto something you can resolve. Here’re some effective ways to control your emotions.

            5. Self-Confidence

            Watch a presentation by any CEO and you’ll see that even if they’re not natural presenters – they make up for this by having powerful self-confidence.

            It’s not just CEOs who have self-confidence, any successful leader will have this trait in abundance. One reason for this, is that only a confident person can persuade others and gain their respect.

            Worried that you have low self-confidence? Try faking it. Psychologists often recommend that if you ‘act’ at being confident, you’ll start to look, sound and feel like you ARE confident. And in time… you will be.

            If you look for more ways to boost your self-confidence, this confidence coach has got you some nice advice:

            How to Be Confident: 62 Proven Ways to Build Self-Confidence

            6. Decisiveness

            Leaders are frequently called upon to make decisions (some leaders may have to make dozens of decisions every day). In fact, you could say that making decisions is one of the key things a leader must do.

            Spend some time observing highly-successful leaders and you’ll see that they are quick to make decisions. They also enjoy making decisions, rather than stressing out like many non-leaders do when they’re asked to decide on something.

            Put yourself in the leadership bracket by developing your decision-making skills. Start with small decisions – and then work your way up to bigger and more difficult decisions. Once other people notice your decision-making prowess, they’ll automatically see you as leadership material.

            I know it’s really quite difficult to make the right decisions sometimes, but don’t worry, here’s a guide for you:

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            How To Make Good Decisions All The Time

            7. Passion and Enthusiasm

            Expressive. Active. Energetic. These are words best describe a passionate leader.

            Great leaders are lively, driven and are possessed with zeal and purpose. It’s this passion that helps them achieve big results. If you want to emulate their success, then you need to develop passion and enthusiasm for the work at hand, and the end goals.

            Take a look at this Passion Pyramid to find out how importance a leader’s passion is to the team:

              One way to do this is to find what motivates you, and keep your focus firmly on that. For example, i f you’re motivated by helping others, then make sure your role and company are both suited to realizing this. If you’re motivated by money, then put your focus on achieving bonuses and pay rises.

              Take a look at Leo Babauta’s guide on how to find your passion.

              8. Accountability and Responsibility

              Exceptional leaders know that at all times they’ll need to take responsibility for tasks and their results. This includes things likes individual and team performance, as well as being accountable for when things go wrong.

              When negative things occur (and you can guarantee they will from time-to-time), a great leader will immediately step in and take responsibility. Initially, they’ll try to resolve the problem in as quick and smooth a way as possible. But if this is not feasible, they’ll be sure to say that the buck stops with them – and they take full responsibility for what has happened.

              To develop your leadership skills, you must never shy away from responsibility or accountability. If you prefer to sweep mistakes under the carpet, then you’re demonstrating non-leadership traits. Try owning up to issues and finding solutions to them. By doing this, you’ll immediately gain people’s respect.

              Find out some tips on how to be a more responsible person here.

              9. Focus

              Distractions are everywhere. And it takes major focus to stay committed to tasks and goals. The best leaders understand this, and therefore, they’re always looking at ways to boost their team’s focus.

              One way leaders do this, is to keep their team intensely focused on the bigger picture. This might entail allocating specific time for tasks and eliminating any non-essential work.

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              If you’re easily knocked off track, you’ll need to spend some time boosting your focus. Try planning your day, week, month and year to help ensure that you don’t fall behind with achieving your goals. Check out the 7 strategies of staying super focus recommended by a productivity coach.

              10. Ever-Learning

              Leaders know that to be successful they need to continually update their skills and knowledge. They deliberately learn all they can about their profession and industry, so they’ll able to make confident and assured decisions.

              Why is ever learning so important? I’ll leave it to you to find out the reason here:

              If I Am Living a Good Life, Why Should I Bother Learning New Stuff?

              Imagine a CEO of a solar power company. His company may have amazing solar panels, but when it comes to discussing business with potential buyers, if the CEO or his sales team show a lack of understanding about the solar industry and future trends, etc., they’ll be unlikely to win any business.

              It’s exactly the same for you. If you’re a team leader at an electronics store, you should make sure you fully understand all the products that you offer. But go beyond just that, and read about upcoming products and trends that might change what customers are interesting in buying in the future.

              11. Empathy

              The best leaders understand the feeling of their team members, customers and associates. They know when to praise, and when to discuss problems (usually in private).

              Without empathy, leaders will be seen as cold, harsh and lacking understanding. They’re also likely to be regarded as untrustworthy.

              One way to ‘put yourself in someone else’s shoes’ is to have regular informal discussions with your colleagues. When you do this, you’ll quickly learn their fears and desires. And when you understand why they have these – you’ll be in a position to express empathy. You can also learn to be more sensitive to others’ needs by taking up these communication skills.

              12. Persuasive and Influential

              Communications are at the heart of all transactions. Whether it’s pitching for a sale or resolving a customer complaint, how you communicate will determine the outcome.

              Charismatic leaders such as Richard Branson (Virgin) and Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook) are confident and persuasive communicators. They know how to win over audiences and leave a lasting impressing in people’s minds.

              There’re some common barriers that you’ll have to overcome in order to communicate effectively:

              How to learn effective communication? You could join the world-renowned U.S. nonprofit Toastmasters International. They’ve been training people in the art of public speaking since 1924, and members have included Napoleon Hill, author of Think and Grow Rich, and Star Trek actor Leonard Nimoy.

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              If you don’t have time to join a club, then practice your communications skills at home. You can do this in front of a mirror, or even better, video yourself presenting, and then ask some friends and family members for feedback. You’ll be amazed at what they pick up on.

              13. Team Building

              If you put a bunch of random people together, you may have a loose definition of a team. In reality, a real team has purpose, drive – and a leader lighting the way.

              If you’ve worked in different teams and with different managers, you’ll no doubt have come to this conclusion:

              Managers who treat their team members like children are unpopular with the team. Conversely, managers who treat their team members like adults, are respected and well-liked by the team.

              The days of disciplinarian managers are passed. Nowadays, successful team leaders know how to inspire and motivate their team, while keeping a harmonious atmosphere between all team members.

              14. Fostering Creativity

              Solutions to problems are rarely black and white. Often it takes a leader who can ‘think outside the box’ to come up with answers. In other words, a leader must be creative, and also help to foster creativity and innovation throughout their team.

              Creativity is not only associated with pursuits such as arts, literature and music, running a team can be just as creative. There will be times every day when you need to come up with ideas and give guidelines for your team to come up with theirs to solve problems.

              The Bottom Line

              Leadership is a journey of continuous learning. It is an amazing experience that will take you on roads you’ve never traveled before.

              Begin now to build your skills and experience, pick out the traits that you currently lack – and then work on developing those.

              It will take tons of practice and time before becoming an effective leader but eventually you will join the ranks of great leaders.

              More About Leadership

              Featured photo credit: unsplash via unsplash.com

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