build with purpose

Seeking Change

Change is constant for technology and now a requirement for businesses. We know that the internet is eating the world and that most businesses are now actually technology companies. This goes for law firms, doctors’ offices, grocery stores, and even major retailers. If the fundamental tools of how we offer value to the world changes, then we have to change as well.

Art is another matter but it changes none-the-less. Art can be timeless and many brands seek this in their logos and fonts. Taste and good sense are also fairly fluid in their ability to suss out quality. Once acquired they don’t necessarily lose their potency, but the thing that does need to be maintained is an understanding of the medium. Technology changes the medium upon which art is built and that change drives the artist.

Technology doesn’t just change the medium directly. Not all painters are without a job simply because of the quality, precision, and style of computer-assisted drawings. However, the ways in which people consume art changes rapidly. The style of a painting can be applied as a texture to make an entire game come to life. The same painting can be rendered in AR to spruce up an otherwise spartan room. Acting changed between the performance medium of the stage and the full-motion animated movies. Depth of experience, driven by technology, changes the consumption of art and the artist must adjust and adapt or miss out on opportunities to be recognized and valued for their talent.

If change is so necessary, why does it seem so hard for us to accomplish it? We have to look at how change happens to get a better understanding.

Let’s say I run a restaurant and a new app lets people place orders online with a delivery company. I’ve heard about how much opportunity there is in pursuing this idea and think it’s worth a shot. I spend some time investing in the tools and equipment. Once it’s set up, I realize people also need to be trained and look at the machine from time to time for new orders coming in.

Working with the managers, we come up with a plan for the process we’ll use for the new machine, who’s responsible for it, and plan how we’ll try it the following week. When that week comes, we try things out and don’t get a lot of orders. It’s disappointing but we are able to handle a few orders and make back a little bit of our investment.

Later in the month, there’s a promotion on the app’s website and our restaurant gets promoted on one of our busiest nights of the week. My waitstaff are running around all over the place trying to placate customers, delivery couriers are running in and out of the door, and the whole place has a sense of unease.

What normally would have helped us cost a lot of the waitstaff tips from their night and we had to make a run to the store for more inventory because of the increased demand. All and all, we’re not in a great place for our first major trial with the application.

Over time this gets better. We make a designated entrance and process for handling take-out orders and even offer it to our regular customers which increases sales a bit more. However, while all of this has been getting figured out our competitors have been doing the same thing better than us due to a head start. Others who never made the switch are also doing better because there hasn’t been any clamor in their restaurants from the increased foot traffic and they’ve actually been able to raise their rates. It feels like we took advantage of an opportunity and our technology adoption actually caused us more problems.

When another app comes knocking that offers our customers the ability to reserve seats in our restaurant for themselves, it doesn’t seem as good of an idea. We’ve been through this and there’s likely another unsuspecting hole out there for us to fall into. Sure other competitors are switching but maybe this isn’t our thing. We’ve started to gauge changes and see them as potentially harmful to our business.

By taking this stance we’re locking ourselves into our current model of business, from a tech perspective, whether we know it or not. We have a convincing story to tell ourselves of having tried to change and how that doesn’t really work out well for us. Others will try to change but we’re not going to change unless it’s absolutely necessary.

Where we tend to see change wrong is from the perspective of how it impacts the work we’re doing and our creativity in using that technology for our purposes. Just because a technology innovation is presented in a certain light doesn’t mean that it must be used in exactly that way. While there’s a clear way to use a hammer, maybe we don’t need quite so many nails or maybe the goal was to pull out nails all along.

Who’s to say that we can’t use the technology that enables people to have restaurant food delivered to their homes with a community-sourced courier and be creative with it. Maybe we only offer courier deliveries in off-hours or hours where we regularly don’t have as many customers in our restaurant. What if we only allow these deliveries for one hour each day? What if we only allow these deliveries around the time we close to finish up any remaining inventory and reduce our waste? What if we rent a small space down the street and have our takeout run out of there using the food from our kitchen to completely remove the element of foot-traffic from our higher-end restaurant.

What makes technology good for a business is sometimes artistic creativity. It’s an understanding of the business sense that goes into making decisions around technology and then it’s creativity in how we apply the technology in a way that resonates with the operators of the business and its customers.

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