This post is from an entry I did a few months back for Attack!, a guerrilla and event marketing services agency I co-founded and where I served as President before co-founding Mosio, but the fundamental ideas are the same: new technologies and gadgets are great for those of us who love the newest shiny things to come out, but implementation and adoption at your organization is tricky at the bleeding edge. At Mosio / Text a Librarian, we see a full spectrum of technology interest/knowledge/experience in libraries, including a lot of librarians who are truly at the bleeding edge of new technologies and social media. I remain on the fence about QR Codes, but I certainly appreciate the enthusiasm. Rather than “Ctrl+F and Replace “Business” with “Library”, the original post is below, unchanged.
Being a marketing and technology fan, I was excited to read Ad Age’s Insights White Paper, Shiny New Things (pdf). Attack! has always been a very technology-friendly company. The mantra for our success is “People, Process and Technology” so I read the white paper on my flight to our LA office, excited to present some ideas I had brewing in my head along with any new nuggets of wisdom I found. In reading about the behavior and general importance of early adopters to brands and marketers, I couldn’t help but think how early adoption, while a passion (and sometimes expensive hobby) for many consumers, is dangerous for businesses. And as David Berkowitz points out, “many agencies will include it [the iPad] in their pitches and plans without thinking whether it’s the best platform for meeting their clients’ objectives.” It’s apparent that the danger of early adoption, for iPads or other shiny objects, can be easily overlooked in the search for innovation. Here’s why:
Shiny new things (SNTs) require employee training.
Regardless of how simple a Shiny New Thing (SNT) is to use, implementing it into your business requires implementation and training with some employees needing morHe than others. Implementing anything new into your business process needs careful thought so the learning curve and mistakes are minimized. Throwing SNTs into the mix increases your chances of confusing and/or frustrating your staff.
The first version is never the best, don’t bet the farm on Beta.
Every early adopter knows that the first version of a new technology is never the best. This means your business is subject to all of the glitches and bugs of the brand new product. It definitely pays to wait it out for the next version if you determine it is something that could prove beneficial to your employees or clients.
Shiny new things can make you lose focus.
I want an iPad. I want one badly. I think they’re a game changer for many industries and as I anticipated their arrival, I started brainstorming all of the possible ways Attack! could use them for our client projects. I’ll admit, I also tried to brainstorm how I could use one at work, ready to enlighten my partners on a revelation in Non Traditional Marketing Agency Management. My “Reasons Partners Should Get iPads” brainstorm notes are below:
There’s nothing wrong with getting an iPad because you want one and we’re headed to the Apple store at lunch to get them, but the mistake in the above thinking that it was rooted in “a solution looking for a problem”: I tried to think of reasons an iPad could be useful rather than thinking of all of the inefficiencies and challenges needing solutions and concluding that the iPad was the perfect tool to solve them. There is great wisdom in knowing the difference.
If you absolutely can’t resist…
There’s nothing wrong with being an early adopter. It’s great (and fun) to be in search of the New New Thing, of new ways of being innovative at your company. Some of the best ideas come out of being open to new technologies and products that can help your business grow. If you can’t resist the temptation to look for new technologies to implement, here are a few things to consider:
Make a list of your challenges and areas of improvement needed at your company.
By defining what it is that you need to improve on, ways your employees can improve process and efficiencies, when SNTs show up, you’ll know instantly where there is a fit. You’ll have a problem looking for a solution. We’ve recently defined several areas in our business where text messaging can improve efficiencies in our Account Management teams and can be sold as add-on services by our Account Executives. The end result will be time saved, archived data in contractor communications and additional revenues to our programs by giving events and street campaigns a longer tail.
Create a new technologies decision phase.
It’s pointless to tell early adopters to wait. Early adopters wait long enough hearing rumors, seeing leaked photos, specs and standing in lines to get their beloved new technologies. Instead, implement an internal timeline and process where you will explore if and how a SNT can help your company. Start with 60 days. Use the time to attend demos, identify pros and cons and ultimately make an informed decision on how you will implement the SNT into your business. You might need more than 60 days, but after the launch of a product, that should be long enough to help you determine if it will be good for business and also to hear about when the next version is coming out. See if you can wait for version 2.0.
Know which employees are technology-friendly and who aren’t.
This will be helpful in the implementation and training phase. Employees who are excited about new technologies can be the ones who help you test them out before you decide they should be implemented and they can help you educate the others who are less comfortable. If over 50% of your employees are not technology-friendly, every new SNT you add will be a struggle, so it’s best to pick your battles. If you have an employee or two helping you test things out in the new technologies decision phase, make sure they understand that you ARE testing out the technology against your needs, not trying to find a place for it to work.
Know when to cut bait.
You should default to “we don’t need this” then see if the solution it creates beats the need to let it go. But, as soon as it becomes apparent (hopefully sooner than later), stop testing the technology and let it go. Your time is valuable, your employees time is valuable, so there’s no point in hanging on to wait and see if something magical will happen.
I’m off to buy my iPad…because they’re awesome and I want one.