Thursday, September 2, 2010

Speed Kills

When you sell technology for a living, speed always comes into the equation. You should buy the new computer because it is faster; more memory means faster. Buy the one with the faster hard drive, faster CPU and so on. Or, you should get the new broadband service, because it is so much faster than what you have now. People who write software for a living are always striving to shave a few milliseconds off the program processing time, as these saved seconds (when added up) can save a client millions of dollars . In the world of sports, speed is always a factor. The person who runs the fastest, or throws the fastest, or who has the fastest serve in tennis makes the most money.

Speed is a benchmark that seems to measure success in our world. Our pursuit of happiness has somehow become permanently linked to the pursuit of doing things faster, and not necessarily doing things better.

We are one of the slowest species on the planet. We can only run so fast. We can only do things so fast and remain safe. After that, the train flies off the tracks. We love our technology because technology allows us to “do things faster” than before, as technology supports our love affair with speed. But we humans are the lowest common denominator in the equation. The steroid crisis in sports comes from our pursuit of speed – bigger, faster, and stronger – at any cost. Even when it can cost an athlete their very lives and certainly their professional careers, some will risk it all to be just a little bit faster.

Drugs can cure, but they can also damage. I see technology in the same light. Used properly, technology can save lives, it can greatly improve life on earth and technology can make the world a better place. A business cannot be profitable without technology. But when used improperly, technology can easily do more harm than good. Technology can help the lowly human go much faster than we were intended to operate (both mentally and physically) until we reach the point of “unsafe at any speed”.

So, I have some choices to make today. I can use all of the technology at my disposal to try to do more today than I did yesterday. And then try to do it again tomorrow (faster) and then again, until I burn up and burn out. I can try to host five conference calls today, when I really should host only two or three. I can try to speak with ten clients all over the globe (feeling rushed, and thinking about my next call) while I am simultaneously checking email, and chatting live with someone in Skype. Or, I can slow down, and have deeper, meaningful conversations with five or six clients, and really make each one a quality conversation. will always remind me what’s next on my schedule, and my email inbox will beep at me all day long, following me from my office computer, to my laptop, to my Smartphone. There is always going to be something to do, something that needs attention. In business, it is always so tempting to try to go faster, to do things faster, and to speed up the process. In business as in sports, faster is always better, right?

Just as we all have a choice to only use drugs for good and noble causes, we must use the same logic with how and why we use technology.

I have two sons in college, living away from home. As I sit here and wonder how they are doing, I can email them, text them, call them on their cell phones, or do a video chat conference call. I wonder which of those technologies will best communicate to them how much I love them, and how much both my wife and I miss them.

It would be so easy to send a quick email to both of them. But in my heart, I know exactly which technology to use for this very important task; the slowest one. Pen and paper, and two first class stamps.

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