Wednesday, September 19, 2007

If Technology Was The Answer - What Was The Question?

I have held a number of positions over the last 30 years or so (most of which seemed to have had the term 'contributory negligence" attached to them, but that's another story). 

Having done so, I am able to look far back into the dim recesses of history and remember when just about the only means for document delivery was the United States Post Office, and the only means of remote person-to-person communication was Bell Telephone. (and most of those were these really crummy pay phones that we had to try and use from a car while the rain and snow blew in and we froze our butts off) Now I know that such statements date me to a period in history when dinosaurs still roamed the earth and may seem quite unbelievable to those of the current generation, but it is true none the less. More amazing still, is that using these Stone Age tools and moving at the relative snail's pace that this technology afforded us, we were able to resolve the crises of the day and still find a bit of time for ourselves.  

Progress rolled relentlessly forward however, and since then we have been presented with a constant stream of technological improvements. I won't go into the details of the introduction of Xerox and fax machines, Fed Ex overnight delivery, personal computers, cell phones, and the use of the Internet (because I'm trying to become a better writer and I've been told that I can get too wordy); all of which we take for granted today. 

What concerns me however is that as these things were becoming part of the mainstream, promises were made that each would provide us with more free time in our lives. Instead, the opposite seems to have become the case. This incredible access to each other appears to have done nothing except make us more demanding of immediate answers to questions, whether they are necessary to the situation or not. 

No longer content to let a real process of evaluation take place, the world seems to have suddenly become full of two year-olds who have created a dirty diaper and want it changed NOW. This constant intrusion has led to access during meals, while trying to sleep, or even in the bathroom (you would be amazed at how often that this happens), and it never seems to be enough. By short-circuiting the process however, we have replaced the well thought out answer with the quick response. Consequently, we are far too often forced to go back and re-think everything to make up for things that got missed in our haste to respond quickly and ultimately delaying the delivery of a correct answer.  

So let me state the following for the record:

* Fast answers are not necessarily good answers.  
* Timely responses do not mean immediate responses.  
* A well thought out answer is usually better than a knee-jerk reaction.  
* Doing it right once takes less time than doing it over.  

(I would also like to say, while I think that there is a chance that my bosses will read this, that I work long hours and extremely hard to proved the answers requested of me as part of my job. One should never pass up an opportunity to suck up when it presents itself.) Perhaps before demanding an immediate answer we should remember the words of Mark Twain:  

"I was happy to be able to respond promptly. I said that I don't know."

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