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What is the best piece of tech your people are using right now? How about the worst? Most likely, as you scroll through your mental files of recent team successes and pain-points, the tools that stand out are not those with flashy functionality but the ones enabling people to shine.

Don’t get me wrong, the functionality of tech matters hugely, but it matters in direct relation to the functionality of people and the teams they make up. Those bells and whistles of a new app are only valuable if they empower users to realise their potential. Once again, how you think makes a difference. In this case, how you think about the relationship between tech and people – between IT and HR – is crucial.

While collaborating on a recent project, a colleague in the IT industry told me that, “IT has long been forced to focus on the provision, rather than the consumption, of IT services.” In short, IT now needs to focus on humanity. Might an opposite but equal shift in thinking be needed in human resources? In our ever more virtual world of work, should HR focus more on tech? Again, my suggestion is that we answer ‘yes’, but that the focus is not just on tech but rather on how tech relates to and empowers people.

In a recent Philosophy at Work report, we offered the below three questions to help professionals of all disciplines think well about how new tech is adopted. I share them here in the hope that they will also help you reflect on how you think about tech in your work. 

1. What are the specific frictions I am observing in our teams?
When problems with tech arise, we tend to make blanket statements such as “important feedback from customers get missed” or “it’s not clear who is supposed to be doing what on deliverables.” To find a tech solution that puts people first, try to be as specific as possible. For example, see if you can turn “important inputs from customers get missed” into “I know that we track all of our reported bugs in JIRA, but these all happen on a case-by-case basis for engineering to fix. As a member of the customer success team, it would be really helpful to get more insight into what issues and bugs are being reported overall so that I can be more proactive with my customers.” Now you have a specific problem to fix, not a Goliath to slay.

2. Are we excited about this technology because it is new and “advanced”, or do we actually think that it will seriously benefit our team?
Blame our hunter-gatherer origins, but we are predisposed to get excited about shiny new stimuli when they enter our field of vision. When learning about a new technology, try to ignore the appealing graphic design and punchy marketing materials, and instead be intentional in understanding what exactly your broader organization would use it for. In industry terms, identify the specific use cases for this technology, and see if they lend themselves to the work your team is already doing. If you see a mismatch between the two, this piece of technology may not be for you.

3. If I choose this tool, will I be able to turn at least a few members of my team into evangelists?
Enterprise software is no small expense, and if your team decides to take a plunge with a new tool, you’ll need to make sure that the hefty licensing fees are worth it. The fastest way for a tool to fail is for no one to use it, and the fastest way for it to succeed is for it to be rapidly and enthusiastically adopted. If you know that there are members of your team who are excited about this tool and willing to share its benefits with everyone else, you are likely to see enthusiastic adoption.

Dr. Brennan Jacoby, Philosopher and Founder – Philosophy at Work 

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