By Dean Whittaker

As an “early adopter” of new technology I am addicted to the latest gadget or gizmo that promises to make me more productive or efficient or just plain “cool”.  When the piles of “techno-trash” (last year’s model, etc.) begin to pile up around my den and office I begin to ponder three questions.

The first question is the most critical. I ask, what problem does this technology solve? How does information technology make me more productive or effective or create all that “leisure-time”?  Take for example, email. What problem does this technology help me solve? Well, it enables me to work “24×7”. When I awake in the early morning hours, I can communicate with my clients, colleagues, and friends. I can send documents, files, images and other content long distances rapidly to multiple recipients. So, basically, email allows me to communicate with more people faster. It shifts time and location so that the person with whom I am communicating is doesn’t need to be available to receive my message.  So, what is the problem I am trying to solve?  Is it figuring out more ways to communicate with more people? Is it shifting time and space? Is it

The second question I ask myself is, “Whose problem is it”? Using the email analogy, whose problem is it? Email has rapidly become the communication mode of choice. Is communication my problem to solve? Well, yes, it probable is. So it passes this test.

Lastly, I ask myself, “What other problems does it create”?  Well, let’s see. There is the issue of unwanted messages – spam.  Also, email creates the expectation of a rapid response necessitating devices like the Blackberry, a hand held always connected gadget that has a high geek factor and enables distracting “urgent” messages to be received anytime and anywhere include the rest room, class room and board room.  And now my PDA (personal data assistant) has been bred with my cell phone to create “the smart phone” enabling email message to be received and sent on it. High speed internet access in my hotel rooms becomes a differentiating factor in hotel selection.  My laptop begins to be part of my travel gear when on “vacation” so I don’t have to deal with ten days worth of email when I return.

Whatever happened to time to think or just be? Can you remember the last time you received a personal hand written letter or note? Want to stand out these days? Buy a fountain pen, stationary, some stamps and take the time to compose and send a letter or note.  

In summary, technology can be a great servant but it comes at a cost. I need to carefully select the technology I employ based up its ability to solve real issues that are mine and that create the fewest side effects. When contemplating my next gadget or gizmo I need to ask my self these three questions. What’s the problem, whose is it and what other problems will this solution create?  Take the three-way technology test on your next purchase.