Technology lets people do more today than they’ve ever been capable of before. We’re living during a time where advances are happening so rapidly that it’s hard to keep up. But as all of this new tech becomes a part of our daily lives, it’s important to stop and ask, “Is this really making my life easier?”
Simplicity isn’t just underrated — it’s nearly forgotten. New technology loves to boast about new features and functions, which, in reality, are new complications. And while your personal time is getting gobbled up by at least three social media platforms, a dozen communication channels and all the other “conveniences” tech has brought into your life, the stress and pressure felt at the enterprise level are significantly worse.
Instead of making life simpler, technology has made it more complicated. That’s not the way it’s supposed to work.
Tech Has Lost Its Way
When Captain Kirk and the crew from Star Trek would beam down to the surface of the planet, they each carried the same three essential items with them: tricorder, communicator and phaser — the “wallet, phone, keys” of the 23rd Century.
They all had the exact same things because those things were the simplest solutions to any problems they would face. Point a tricorder at something, and it tells you everything you need to know. Open up the communicator, and speak to anyone you want. Set your phaser to stun, and put that angry lizardman right to sleep. These three little items could do anything the crew needed to do, easily and without any fuss.
There was no messing around with apps, no compatibility issues and no headaches (except for that unfortunate lizardman). The future promised to be simple, even when the technology involved was complex. So why hasn’t it turned out that way in the real world?
FOMO And The Hype Cycle
Instead of streamlining and simplifying, technology has become a constant game of one-upmanship. Companies are always trying to outdo one another by cramming in more and more, without really thinking about what is absolutely essential (seriously, there’s a phone out there with 16 cameras in it).
This happens because it makes for good headlines. Creating the most feature-packed product pretty much guarantees you a space on the next review listicle, and it’s an easy comparison to say, “The old product did 102 things, but this one does 105. That makes it better.”
Cell phones are a great example of this. Every year a new model comes out with a few new features (or features that the competitor added the year before), and every year the media and the market work themselves into a frenzy over it.
Are those new features really making anyone’s life less complicated?
This same phenomenon happens on the enterprise level, where its effects are even more disruptive. New enterprise systems come out all the time, promising to solve all of a company’s problems. But implementing new systems creates new problems — new integrations, new workarounds and new training for everyone.
So long as new technology offers incremental upgrades, it’s just introducing unneeded complexity. True value comes when the new system is revolutionary.
Complexity Kills Agility
The biggest wastes of time, money and resources for an enterprise come from complex systems. If you’ve ever been a part of a project that involved large-scale data integration, you know exactly what a massive problem it is. And it’s a problem that isn’t going away with current solutions.
Complex systems make it impossible for businesses to operate with agility. Want to add a new system or change the way your dataflow works? Get ready for a project plan with a scope of months, if not years. By the time you’re done, there’s probably going to be a new solution out there to “solve” all your woes. Why change if your new solution will just be outdated by the time it’s fully implemented?
Instead of agility, current enterprise systems encourage stagnation. And the biggest hangup here is the way data works today. These bottlenecks in systems integration happen because each application has its own systemic database, and it takes your engineers and other geniuses to figure out how to get all those separate systems of data talking to one another.
That’s not the way data should work.
Judge Technology By What It Takes Away
In trying to make the world simpler, we’ve made it so much more complicated than it needs to be. But the solution to the problem of technology-driven complications is easy: Stop looking for the most features and start looking for simplicity. Instead of asking, “What new work can this do?” ask, “What work does this take away?”
A simple shift in mindset goes a long way. Start looking past the glam and glitz of the latest technology and figuring out how something can actually make your life easier. You’ll find the value of simplicity in the way you live from day to day, the way your business operates and the way you communicate with others.
It’s addition by subtraction. Find ways to take away problems and complexities, and you’ll find that your life — and your business — will become a whole lot better.