3 minute read

Why can’t technology just get out of the way?

Rick Kennedy
Posted by Rick Kennedy on Nov 17, 2015 7:00:00 AM

You’ve likely experienced the initial excitement of getting started with a new piece of technology only to find there are too many things to master before you can actually take advantage of it. You wind up thinking, This technology would be great, if only it would get out of my way and let me focus on the work

That experience is all too common. Many promising technology products stall because they’re difficult to integrate into an organizational workflow. Creators forget that to be effective, technology must be additive. In the workplace, this means enhancing speed, innovation and overall results.

Why is that so difficult to achieve? Because too many products introduce fun features at the expense of proven process. They require customers to not only learn a new technology, but also fundamentally change the way they work – throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Technology has the potential to transform business processes only if it captures the essence of what makes those processes successful to begin with. Tools and systems that preserve that essence are immediately familiar to the intended audience. Those that are able to enhance without hampering a process deliver a major increase in value. 

Take ideation as a case in point.

Familiar process

Idea sharing became a recognized process back in the late 19th century, but it garnered increased attention in the 1940s when Alex Osborn introduced the world to brainstorming. Group idea-generation has been standard practice in workplaces ever since. And ideation – a more focused, more intensive evolution of the process – has shown proven benefits during more than a decade of design thinking investigation led by Stanford University’s Institute of Design and IDEO.

At its core, ideation revolves around teams sharing and iterating ideas to achieve a particular goal. This usually means papering the walls of their space with sticky notes, images, sketches and other artifacts. Ideas spawn new ideas. Information is organized and reorganized. Concepts are prioritized and refined until the team is ready to take action. It’s a proven approach that’s been honed over many decades.

But working on paper means the process is constrained to co-located teams. It’s difficult to include remote participants or simultaneously engage multiple teams. And there are other challenges: How do you extend ideation beyond the face-to-face event? How do you better prepare for a session or follow up when a session wraps? What do you do with the results? 

Increased value

Transforming ideation from a paper-based activity into a digital one can answer these challenges. But elevating the experience without inhibiting people requires using technology to honor the time-tested process described above. It means enabling many participants, using walls as a workspace, making it easy to interact with information and retaining simple tools that don’t bog down the process. This visibility and simplicity are the essence of the ideation process.

A technology solution that combines this essence with additive features boosts the process’s overall value by enabling a new suite of capabilities. These allow users to

  • Leverage the technology that people carry with them – tablets, laptops and smartphones – to ideate
  • Create big, interactive spaces to capture, share, organize and iterate ideas
  • Enable persistent workspaces where information is always available
  • Facilitate collaboration between remote teams and individuals so co-location is no longer essential
  • Capture and distribute results without first having to transcribe content, allowing anywhere, anytime access by anyone on the team

Future success

Technology has one purpose in business – to make our efforts more effective. Solutions that focus on enhancing, rather than redefining, business processes will be a formula for success. That’s how technology enables the future – and gets out of the way.

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Topics: Ideation