No, "Feeling Stupid" is not a new song by Simon & Garfunkel, but feeling stupid about technology is an anthem that many of us can sing from memory.
Technology has a way of humbling us--whether it's the never-ending stream of acronyms spewing out of the cognoscenti: "You don't know what MFTXPV means?" they gloat incredulously. "Anybody who is ANYBODY knows that."
Dealing with technology can make even the smartest people feel helpless. Sit down with any system and try to follow the instructions and you can end up wondering if you have suffered sudden brain damage.
Having recently worked on building my own Web site (I was waiting for a new computer and a broadband connection before putting it up), I can relate to just how confident a person can be going into learning new software and how quickly a sense of futility can set in.
People like to be in control of their own lives, and it's this lack of control that can be at the heart of the failure of any installation, whether of hardware, software, networking, Internet, or whatever. People do not want to feel dumb, powerless, or incapable of fitting in to a system that they assume everyone else understands.
It gets worse as people move up the executive ladder. I've heard those who conduct training sessions say they hold classes separately for high-level executives because they are people who don't want to look stupid in front of others.
I do not have the secret for addressing this. I am sure that smart resellers and consultants would talk about managing expectations--let people know that there will be a point in any software implementation at which they will hate the software and the people who sold it.
I do know the issue needs to be considered wherever technology changes things. And technology does change things--if it doesn't, it's not worth buying. A successful installation must change processes and that changes how people do their jobs, and that carries over to how they feel about themselves. It's that jolt that can give some people a challenge and motivate them to greater performance. Others will shrink from the experience.
Maybe when we introduce new systems, we should pay heed to one of the phrases from the song that is mimicked in the first line of this article: "Slow down, you move too fast."
Technology needs to move at the pace of people.
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