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Secrets to Tech Success That Have Nothing to Do with Technology


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Technology has become so powerful that it’s tempting to think it can solve all our problems. Faced with increased competition and a disruptive economy, many businesses are tempted to throw a big dose of tech at their problems and consider them solved. But the essential first step in any tech initiative has nothing to do with technology.

Consider these little-known facts: One study found IT success is a 50-50 proposition at best. Another asserted 68% of technology projects are likely to flop.

I’ve lived (barely) through many tech initiatives, and I learned the hard way that the essential first step to tech success is cheaper, more fun and decidedly non-techie: your workplace culture.

Take the television broadcaster I worked with to create a digital video library. The project had super-smart staff, cutting-edge technology, and buy-in from the highest levels. It failed spectacularly.

It failed for three primary reasons:

1. No curiosity about new ways to do things: No one in the rank-and-file saw a problem that needed fixing. Their process was basically unchanged from the days of film, but with smart people and lots of effort, it still worked.
2. A lack of openness to new ideas: The new system was radically different and required a new way of working —and there was lots of scary new stuff to learn.
3. Fear: There was widespread fear that the system would not work, or that if it did, it would put people out of jobs.

There were plenty of other reasons, of course, but a culture that had stymied innovation for years permeated the company, and no one involved in our digital initiative took that into consideration. Instead, we focused on tweaking the technology to make it more palatable to users. We missed the boat completely.

If you want to change the world with technology (or at least your little corner of it), check your culture first:

1. Is your organization open to new ideas and people? A good start to creating this is dropping the “Yes, buts” from your speech. Instead of instantly arguing for why something won’t work, welcome it with “Yes, and,”thereby starting a conversation about possibilities instead of limitations.

2. Are your people curious or defensive when presented with new things? Rewarding curiosity by placing lots of small bets, pilot projects, and individual initiatives —even if it leads to dead ends —exercises a vital organizational muscle.

3. Do you recognize emotions on the job, and do you acknowledge and respect them? (This is also known as emotional intelligence.) Start with yourself: pay attention to what emotions come up during your day and call them out, silently to yourself at first and then out loud, sending the signal to everyone that it’s OK to have feelings on the job.

These critical cultural cornerstones not only lay the foundation for tech success, but also show the most important business investment is in your people, not machines.

How does your organization’s culture support innovation?

By Tim Peek

Tim Peek creates the ideal future with businesses, NGOs, and their leaders and advises them on ways to make it happen now:


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