All aboard the technology train!

In order to be an effective leader in this day and age, one must possess a myriad of qualities.  It can be assumed that a leader in the 21st century is knowledgeable, forward thinking and innovative.  First, in order to remain knowledgeable, leaders must continually read and learn about the technological advances that are occurring on a daily basis.  As cliche as the term “life-long learner” may have recently become, it is an important phrase for leaders to live by.  Between books, articles, blogs, multimedia presentations, speeches, etc., there is an enormous amount of information generated on a daily basis for leaders to stay up to date on.

Additionally, leaders must be forward thinking.  They must be capable of watching a video on technologies of the future such as Corning’s A Day Made of Glass and comprehend what they are seeing.  As a constantly evolving field, technology can, at times, present far-fetched ideas.  It is the responsibility of the leader to make sense of what they are witnessing and consider future implications.  This is also where the importance of innovation plays a role in the life of a leader.  It is imperative that “out of the box” thinking takes place in regards to technological progress.  Innovative leaders will quickly set themselves apart from their peers if they are able to come up with unique ways to apply and utilize new technologies.  Innovation is a must!

One positive that has resulted from new technology:  technology has made it easier for us to stay current with new technologies!  Thanks to social media (i.e. Twitter) or Web 2.0 (i.e. Google Drive), today’s leaders have powerful tools at their fingerprints.  Collaboration, access to information, etc. are all results that leaders strive for.  When considering Kevin Kelly’s keynote at NExTWORK in July 2011, he discusses the six verbs that describe the evolution of the major trends in technology.  These verbs: Screening, Interacting, Sharing, Flowing, Accessing and Generating are each indicative of a period over the last decade or so in which technology shifted.  Each shift resulted in a change of behavior for society as they reacquainted themselves with a new way of thinking.  Just as society had to change, leaders had to adapt.  Without this ability to adapt, a leader would not be able to succeed as technology progressed.

Fast forward three years and I’m not sure what verb Kevin Kelly would identify as #7 on his list.  One thing, however, is certain; technology will never stop changing.  The trends will continue and whether it be Google Glass, Corning’s A Day Made of Glass or some new type of invention that is just being designed, if a leader does not adapt him/herself to include these new initiatives they will be left behind.

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8 thoughts on “All aboard the technology train!

  1. Working for a private, for-profit organization, I have resources at my disposal that make adopting new technologies realistic. I have healthy budgets for new hardware, software, video conferencing, and audio/visual needs. I just finished a project integrating an 84″ touch screen TV into our headquarters to demonstrate some of our beautiful visualization tools. Although, as a leader, I must still work hard to stay on top of technological trends and determine how those changes will impact my organization, when I have identified the appropriate technologies to implement, the procurement of those (usually very expensive) technologies is not overly difficult, assuming I have done my job in budgeting for such tools.
    For those working in education and non-profits, the challenges of leadership remain but must be compounded by the additional challenges of finding the funding to implement new and expensive technologies.
    Thank you for your post!

  2. Really good point on leaders being adaptable. The military stresses this fact every chance they get.

    “Army leaders in this century need to be pentathletes, multi-skilled leaders who can thrive in uncertain and complex operating environments . . . innovative and adaptive leaders who are expert in the art and science of the profession of arms. The Army needs leaders who are decisive, innovative, adaptive, culturally astute, effective communicators, and dedicated to life-long learning.”
    — Francis J. Harvey, Secretary of the Army, speech for U.S. Army Command and General Staff College graduation

    Here’s where I see the problem. If teachers/leaders are to be capable of all these things, where do they learn these skills? Often it’s assumed that lifelong learning is a requirement for all but is this not an unfair assumption. Teacher education has to adapt as much as technology needs to be adopted. I personally stay abreast of technology but as we all know that unless I am surrounded by experts in all fields there are things that I will not know about. How can we help each other to stay current?

    Eric

    • Eric, great point: “…How can we help each other to stay current?” There are several assumptions here, but one that I like it the idea that “we” will help each other. For me, this means building a virtual network that can help to keep me informed. That is a combination of Twitter followings and blog RSS feeds. Instead of going out to the web, I have reprogrammed it to come to me with curated information…just by who I follow.

  3. You make an excellent point that a leader must not only be able to keep up with trends, but that they must “comprehend” all of the new information. You can understand a tool, but it is useless until you find a relevant and effective application. While technology has made it easier to stay current, I could also see it easily becoming a distraction. Shirky (2009) suggested focusing on the groups and not on the tools themselves, writing, “As always, social tools don’t create new motivations so much as amplifying existing ones” (p. 294). It seems as if there needs to be an equal amount of internal and external focus in order to find the best use of technology. I agree, without adapting, leaders will be left behind, but losing focus on what their goals, regardless of that technology, will leave them behind as well.

    Great post!

    References

    Shirky, C. (2008). Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organization. New York: Penguin Press.

  4. Technology Ambitions,

    The amount of information available to leaders is overwhelming. A leader’s ability to filter and process the information and then make decisions about how to move forward based on their analysis of the information is the key to staying relevant and innovative with technology. As a registered dietitian, I have a similar experience trying to keep up with the vast amount of food and nutrition information. People are always asking me about the latest fad diet, food supplement, bariatric surgery, dietary supplement, and food additives. It is impossible to keep up with all the new food products on the market, all the clinical procedures that are available, new agriculture practices, and new supplements. For that reason, I join blogs, list serves, and professional organizations that help me quickly learn the facts about these new products and services. This seems like the same strategy that leaders must take to synthesize opportunities in technology.

    Perhaps the next verb on Kevin Kelly’s list will be integrating? It seems the next phase of technology will be integrating technologies, people, and resources. But – only time will tell!

    • Integrating is a good term…some also suggest curating – a term borrowed from museums for collecting relevant artifacts.

      And I totally agree with your strategy for staying current.

  5. “Innovative leaders will quickly set themselves apart from their peers if they are able to come up with unique ways to apply and utilize new technologies. Innovation is a must!”

    Hello Technology Ambitions!

    I agree with your statement that innovation is a must. The only question is how do we develop innovative leaders? How do leaders think outside the box? I think we need leaders who show initiative and who are adaptive in the workplace. If I had to choose a verb it would be filtering. As Shirky points out, we are no longer filtering and publishing, people are publishing and we need leaders who know how to filter out the right technology to use in our workplace.

    Shirky, C. (2008). Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organization. New York: Penguin Press.

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