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TECHNOLOGY

Don't Underestimate 'Tech Block'

Make sure your new hires are not only computer literate, but tech-savvy. Here's why.
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Ever tried to teach your grandma to use a computer? I did. 

While she eventually figured it out, there was a period in which she was too scared to learn.  She was afraid to click on buttons and links because she was afraid she would break something.  When made properly, software isn't easily broken by amateur users, but it took her awhile to understand that and realize that there were no digital egg shells on the floor. 

Once she realized she could explore a website without getting in trouble she started tinkering.  And, as she played with the site more she programmed her brain to understand how to navigate it.  She learned how to learn.

This is an important phenomenon to understand—I call the inability to do this "tech block".  Tech block is a mental barrier that prevents people from understanding how to use technology typically because they're afraid to tinker. 

What might surprise some founders is that while many might assume that this phenomenon is unique to people who didn't grow up with computers, there are droves of younger folks who are computer literate but who suffer from TechBlock.  They cower from new websites.  They're afraid to test, explore, and learn.  As a result, they use outdated tools and decide to be an old dog disgruntled by new tricks.

As you can imagine having a person with tech block on the team of a tech startup doesn't bode well.  They'll struggle to understand how to use the company's hot new product and won't proactively tinker with it to overcome the knowledge gap.  Since people who build tech products rarely have tech block, you're more likely to uncover tech block lurking around your sales or business development team.  The people who are speaking to your customers may not understand what they're selling.  Terrifying.

When tech founders are hiring, knowing about this syndrome is a big deal.  You'll need to test for tech block in the interview process.  This is done rather easily by asking people if they use the latest social media toys.  Typically if they're anywhere near the cutting edge they're capable of self-teaching.  If they're not using social media, you may want to ask them to give you feedback on some other hot new products after the interview. 

If you're not running a tech startup, be careful not to assume that tech block won't affect your company.  Having people on your team who can identify and understand new tools can help your company operate faster, cheaper, smarter.  Folks with tech block probably won't be suggesting new tools and solutions to your old problems.

While tech block may not bring your company to its knees, it may take some spring out of its step.  Be warned and beware.

Last updated: Feb 14, 2012




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