Making technology work for you

It was 20 years ago when computer screens flashed green letters, computer paper had sprocket holes along the sides and dinosaurs roamed the Earth.

I was the operational manager of a K-Mart in those days and my boss was telling me we were to be visited by technicians to set up the new computer. It required its own room with enough electrical outlets and space to handle the space-age equipment. Head office had looked at our blueprints and decided that my boss’s office was the best place for it.

“How ironic,” I mumbled.

“I was going to retire soon anyway,” my boss mumbled.

For the next three years, computers became something for me to tolerate … no, survive. I would be in the office until midnight when, finally, a help desk person would say to me, “You mean to say you only hit the back-slash once?”

I would come in an hour earlier to download the updates to our pricing. If I didn’t hit the right buttons in the right order (all written down because there was no sense in trying to understand all of this), then we would “go manual” for the morning until we fixed it.

And, on top of all of my other duties, I would have to ask Shirley on Checkout #4 why her Cost Override percentage was 14.3 points higher than the average. It was just one of a thousand other facts and figures now at my fingertips … and buried on Page 38 of a 120-page printout.

Seat-of-the-pants managing was gone. Gut instinct no longer counted for anything. We now answered to the new occupant of the boss’s office.

Nobody, at that time, told us to have patience. For all we knew, the account clerks at head office could now take longer lunch breaks as we were now doing all of their work for them.

Then came the glorious day when head office told us we didn’t have to put price tickets on merchandise anymore. Then we were told we didn’t need to count the merchandise every week so that we could prepare our orders.

That was 20 people who no longer had a job … but this was the same time that Ontario decided to allow Sunday shopping and, so, they all stayed.

And gone were the promises of the four-day work week for the rest of us.

Change the names and change the places and you will recognize this story arc as your own or of someone you know.

The modern office is in constant upheaval as we scurry to make the most of the technology available to us. If we do it first, that is a competitive edge we gain and, really, how many opportunities can we find to beat the competition when we already try so hard.

I think it is time we all took a deep breath and realized that we will always be catching up to technology.

When we interview prospective employees, we should not ask them what they know. Instead, we should ask them what they can learn. How patient are they? How methodical are they?

Instead of giving them an intelligence test, we should measure their creativity.

How about our own performance? When we implement a new procedure and get it up and running smoothly, we should immediately start looking for an even better way.

We should spend 10 per cent of our day improving our brains to meet the challenges of tomorrow. And we should get over the fact that we don’t know what tomorrow’s technology will present us with.

Reading this issue of How’s Business Yukon can contribute to that 10-per-cent quota of improving your brain. In these pages are examples of business people who push technology further and further to attract more clients (Page 2, Neil Hartling). There are those who use technology to allow themselves to tackle new and exciting opportunities (Page 4, Mike and Donna Larsen). And there are those who use technology to supplement a skill they do not already possess (Page 8, Lisanna Sullivan, Lillian Loponen and Lara Melnik).

Need more convincing? Go to Page 11 and read Rick Karp’s From the Chamber column, and Shari Morash’s Business Philosophy. These two respected business people (and valued How’s Business Yukon columnists) tell you their own stories.

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