I rode the bus to school as a child. And most days, sat in the same seat with the same two other kids. And once a week, they would talk about the previous night’s Dukes of Hazard show. It was iconic. However, I did not watch it and felt like an outsider, the shunned. Quickly, I learned the characters and the flow of the show. And learned to ask questions so the other two boys would talk about what happened in the show. And then I could agree with them about ‘my favourite part’ and piece together enough of the story to make out like I also had watched it. The show was popular and I wanted to be part of the ‘in crowd’.
Shiny toys are popular. They shimmer and glimmer. They communicate the bearer is part of the ‘cool’ kids, a certain socio-economic group, and so on. All without the bearer needing to say anything. This is true of tv shows, of toys, of cars, houses, kitchen appliances. And it is true of technology.
Technology and devices bring with them status. Status among your peers. And humans crave it. But here’s the thing, you don’t need to know how to use the device to feel the status bump. Those of us with smartphones have a more powerful computer in our pocket than was used to go to the moon for the first time. And yet, most of us use it to call, text, and one or two other apps. Oh we have lots of other apps on our phone, but we don’t use 90% of them. They, too, are signals of status.
It is one of the reasons technology is the easy part. And digital is the hard part. It is one of the reasons people can talk about strategies and future trends and not mention digital. If we are ‘seen’ with devices or on a zoom call, we are sending a status signal. We don’t need to do the hard work of becoming digitally literate or asking the hard questions about what digital transformation is all about.
Technology signals status even if we don’t know how to use it. And status is what we humans crave.
We can choose to stop at a fancy device or we can seek transformation. The choice is up to us.