Tuesday, March 22nd, 2016 | 7 min read
My father often told me, “life’s not about where you came from, it’s about what you’ve learned.” He was a huge advocate of learning, and I very much followed in his footsteps.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that adopting novel ideas requires constant effort. Learning can be labor-intensive, as we don’t intuitively know how to use new technologies. It makes us act against hardened habits. And it demands time that we often don’t have.
And so, I’ve turned learning and development into a commitment – a disciplined practice I call “TechNowism.”
The word TechNowism sounds like it could be a cult – it’s not. Nor is it the latest craze in club music – although I’d happily dance to this.
TechNowism is a positive and practical twenty-first century philosophy celebrating and embracing change. It’s a contract for personal development for both businesses and individuals. Perhaps you’ll call this principle something else: innovation, adaptation, transformation, or your own coined term. The word choice doesn’t matter. What’s important is that it’s an insurance policy against becoming obsolete – and everyone needs to have one.
A man living on an oil rig wakes up one night to find it engulfed by flames. He only has one choice: dive into the icy water. Under normal circumstances, this would never happen. He took the plunge because his immediate survival depended on it
But think of all the events leading up to the fire – the failed inspections, the decaying beams, the broken pipes. All the signs of potential danger that our protagonist likely disregarded.
This is where most of us are in our lives. Like this man, we ignore signs of change – only responding when we’re under pressure. But by the time we react, it might already be too late.
If you need further convincing of the need for TechNowism, just take a look at the world’s most powerful organizations: since 2000, 52% of companies in the Fortune 500 have either gone bankrupt, been acquired, or ceased to exist. Whether you’re a hot new startup or a robust global enterprise, no one is immune to obsolescence. This is where TechNowism can help.
If you’re ready to start embracing TechNowism and its call for adaptation, here are five steps to help you maintain longevity in the digital age.
“It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” – Charles Darwin
No one can act in a manner that is inconsistent with what he or she believes. So in order for any of this to work, you have to first believe that embracing change is good for you, keeps you relevant, keeps you in the game, and makes you more productive. Enthusiasm for trying new things is the lifeblood of TechNowism.
Each morning, I load my social monitoring dashboards – browsing the different queues auto-filled with content from popular sites, topics I like, influencers I follow, even influencers my influencers follow. This is how I stay up-to-date on trends; you might have a different process.
For those practicing TechNowism for the first time, consider starting off with a few simple Google searches:
– The future of technology
– The future of social media
– The future of whatever industry you’re in
Your inquiries will turn up a host of articles offering perspectives on disruptors that will potentially impact your future, company, and industry.
A few years ago, I started hearing about a little site called Twitter. I wanted to give it a chance – really immerse myself – so I did something drastic. I cancelled my beloved New York Times subscription, opting instead to follow the publication on Twitter. Over time, I started engaging with other business leaders and influencers via Twitter. It’s now my go-to source for news.
This is the next key step in becoming a TechNowist: having a dedicated routine for experimentation. You have to regularly and actively try new ideas – even if they seem a little silly at first. That being said, you don’t need to test every new idea or app. Crowdsource ideas (consider asking the millennials in your office what’s on their radars), confer with your peers, and be selective about what you want to learn.
Give the things you think might work 30 days to prove themselves. That is the least amount of time you need to sense the potential benefits. If it’s a good idea, expect to be irritated in the first week, curious in the second week, willing in the third week, and an advocate by the fourth week.
I experienced this evolution when I first experimented with Snapchat. Like most people who aren’t “digital natives,” I struggled with seeing Snapchat’s value at first. I thought of it as a vessel for selfies and sexting. But after a few weeks, plus a thorough demo of the new filters by my daughter, Snapchat is now one of my favorite apps.
Embracing a positive change is important. But renouncing an experiment that didn’t work is just as crucial.
I once tried a handwriting recognition software called Graffiti. The program had to train me in order to recognize my handwriting. I would go through a tedious process every day of practicing writing differently, which benefited the app instead of me. The program never did read very well, and it crashed constantly.
My colleagues realized pretty early on that Graffiti wasn’t an effective tool, but I clung on. Looking back, I wish I had the wisdom to recognize an unsuccessful experiment earlier.
My journey to TechNowism hasn’t been smooth sailing. I’ve been frustrated and disenchanted at times. You’ll have these moments too. Half of your ideas might never take flight. And when that happens, it will be demoralizing. It will feel like a waste of time. But consider your results across all of your efforts, not on an isolated basis.
All the trial and error I’ve done has given me a sense of what is possible, and an ability to envision the future a little more clearly. That’s the beauty of practicing TechNowism: your efforts are never in vain.