Today my 10-year-old daughter asked once again for a cell phone. “All the other kids have one. I need it for emergencies.” I replied with the obvious answer: if all the kids have one, she’d have plenty of phones to borrow in an emergency. She feels entitled, but I’m waiting until she is mature enough to be responsible.
In the grown-up world, how often do we deny ourselves the latest cool techno-gear when we’re not ready to handle it? I expect my iPad or Android or laptop to do everything I want. If I’m writing a guest blog, it should come off flawlessly, right?
This notion of technology entitlement boils our frog-water so slowly we don’t notice the trouble we’re getting into. How many of the millions of iPad 2 buyers really know how to use it productively? Yes, many are experts at retrieving eggs from evil green pigs, but how many think, mistakenly, that their agile finger-work will ensure quality work product?
Great technology does not equal great work product. Imagine yourself on a golf course with an Adams Speedline 9064LS, one of Golf.com’s best-rated tour drivers of 2011. How will you fair? Pros will do really well. If you’re not a golfer, you may miss the ball. If you play occasionally, you’ll send the ball farther—a much farther slice off the course than before. Just because you have the best technology, you are not automatically a great golfer.
In the legal industry, effectiveness is measured in the quality of legal work and the ability to run the business. Technology greatly enhances efficiency (time- and money-saving aspects), but effectiveness (ability to reach goals) lies in the expertise of the technology user. This expertise cannot be given; it comes from hard work and practice, at which point you know the power and limitations of the tools. Effective technology is not an entitlement.
I offer three rules to avoid an entitlement mindset:
Don’t entirely trust technology. Aside from occasional bugs, your computer doesn’t make mistakes, but it still may not give you what you want. The word judgement is a legitimate alternate spelling and may not be picked up by your spell check. Redline markings
s may can be
accuratecorrect yetbut difficult hard
to read digest. When you send your Word document to a printing
company, expect the table of contents to be wrong, since a different printer
driver changes pagination. Technology can save you hours; take a few minutes to
proof your final work.
Don’t let technology control you. Don’t waste time over-manipulating fonts and formatting. Don’t ask for reports you won’t use. Don’t add form fields calling for information you don’t really need. Don’t, under any circumstances, get sucked into browsing for golf clubs when you are supposed to be writing your article. Don’t let technology snafus impede your common sense. The other day, I quickly pulled up some driving directions. I sent them to print and spent 20 minutes troubleshooting printing problems. Needlessly, I was late to my destination. I could have handwritten the six or seven steps and been on my way.
Do become the expert you need, or else find the right expert. We’ve all suffered through bad presentations, but one story illustrates the cost. In Ernst v. Merck, a 2005 Vioxx trial in Texas, the jury awarded $253.4 million to the plaintiff. Several articles attribute the large reward to attorney Mark Lanier’s bullet-free PowerPoint, which helped weave a vivid and emotional tale. It contrasted dramatically with the bullet-filled, dry presentation of defendant’s counsel. Lanier was not a PowerPoint guru; he hired Cliff Atkinson, author of Beyond Bullet Points, to help him pull together a compelling story. (See "Beyond Bullet Points" on Trial and Tap into the power of a PowerPoint storyboard).
Always keep in mind your business goals, and learn to use efficient technology effectively. And don’t let technology lull you away from common sense. A couple of weeks ago, I texted my wife to call me. She texted back, “I can’t right now. I’m driving.”