What Strawberries Can Teach Us About Technology

by | May 4, 2020 | ICT4D |

Planting blueberries next to strawberries is unlikely to be successful. Blueberries require a different type of soil acidity than strawberries to flourish. Hostas do well in shade, carnations do not. Iris love extra moisture, so will do well in damp areas around a pond or stream.

Gardening is far more just stick a seed in the ground and watch it grow. Understanding your soil type and what conditions plants need and flourish is one of the joys of gardening. Growing flowers, vegetables, and trees is an education, especially in soil, water, and light. I’m continually learning, often through trial and error, but still learning. As trees put on their coats of leaves, once sunny places become dappled shady areas. Or a wet area dries up. And so, if you are anything like me, sometimes you still put plants in places and ‘hope for the best’.

Just like understanding the soil, water, and light conditions of your garden is critical to plants flourishing or struggling, so too, is understanding the conditions of the organisation into which you are ‘planting’ technology. Instead of soil, water, and light, you need to consider challenges, choices, contributors, culture and context. And it is likely helpful to consider both the maturity of each as well as impact the technology will have on each (positive and negative).

For Challenge consider – What is the problem you are solving (as clear and detailed as you can articulate it)? Who it is a problem for (audience)? Why have other solutions not worked before?

For Choices consider – What are the current business processes in place that are affected by the problem and how will these change/look different when the idea is implemented? What is the business model around the idea that will sustain it and how does that ‘sit’ within the broader organisation’s business model?

For Contributors consider – Who are the key stakeholders and people affected? How will the idea impact their identity – their role, job security, feelings of shame, etc.?  What skills and behaviours are required for the ‘idea’ to be successful?  Where do we find these skillsets?

For Culture consider – What aspects of our organisational culture support the ‘idea’, which aspects resist it? Where are teams or individuals who already have the mindset needed to make this a success?

For Context consider – What are the aspects of the external context in which we operate that affect the ‘idea’? What aspects need to be taken into consideration for how the idea is shaped or how it is brought to life in the organisation?

As one of my mentors told me ‘as you grow as a manager or leader, it’s likely you’ll become more like a gardener.’ Understanding what technology to adopt is often more about the conditions the technology will be put into than about technology itself. Blueberries will always struggle in the soil strawberries flourish in.

Photo by Oliver Hale

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