“We are stuck with technology when what we really want is just stuff that works.” – The Salmon of Doubt, Douglas Adams
Technology has been and continues to be a game changer for enterprises and individuals alike; just consider how different things would be if email had never been invented. You don’t need a laundry list of the benefits that adopting a new technology brings, but why technologies stick and others don’t is a different story.
Before joining Interprose, I was a graduate student at Kansas State University (go Wildcats!) where I explored what drives people to accept new technologies. The very first conclusion I came to is pretty simple: to reap the benefits of technology, you must first successfully adopt new technology. Duh, right? Before you laugh and surf away, think about this – how many people or businesses do you know of that have experienced serious pain and frustration while trying to adopt a new application or technology? And now with 2014 upon us, you can guarantee the year will bring even more technology trends and gadgets.
They say that knowing is half the battle, so here’s a look at how to tell what technology is right for your business, based on my own knowledge and research (which by the way, is available here: http://hdl.handle.net/2097/15322).
Is it helpful? Easy? Both? Neither?
The backbone of my K-State research is the Technology Acceptance Model (TAM), one of the dominant theories of technology usage . TAM says there are two primary drivers behind why people accept and adopt a given new technology – it’s useful and it’s easy – and which I confirmed through my own findings.
What I found is that people will adopt a new technology if it helps them to do their job better, particularly if it increases productivity, efficiency, or accuracy. There’s always a catch, though. In this case, the catch is that any new technology has to not only seem useful in increasing job performance and productivity, it has to be easy to learn and use.
If a new technology is overly complex to learn or too hard to use, fuhgeddaboudit! People are only so willing to invest time to learn a new technology, even if it could significantly help improve job performance.
You’ve got (tons of) mail!
And speaking of email…a later iteration of TAM looked at what factors into usefulness and ease-of-use . It found that everything from people’s knowledge and comfort level with computers to overall job relevance carried some weight when it comes to these two critical characterizations.
However, I found something interesting in my own research: information overload is also an influential element when it comes to defining usefulness. Consider for a moment, just how much email storms into your email box on a daily basis. Would you call it a trickle? Or is it more like a tsunami? Do you ever wish email had never been invented? If you’re one of those who wouldn’t mind strangling the inventor, take heart in the fact that you’re not the only one.
People often feel bombarded by the sheer volume of email they receive, as well as the vast array of other technologies (Twitter, anyone?) that they must now retrieve new information from. It truly affects technology acceptance – people are sometimes unwilling to even contemplate adding another new technology to the mix because they’re not able to effectively manage those they’re already using.
That old saying “less is more” has never been truer than when it comes to new technologies. People can only handle so much, so choosing wisely is very, very important.
Get off my lawn!
TAM doesn’t address age, however, I bet you’ve heard people fall back on their age as an excuse for not adopting the latest technology. And I bet you’ve got at least one elderly relative that doesn’t like the idea of using one of them newfangled computers. Don’t buy it.
In my own research, I found the age factor to be more of a generational misconception rather than a generational divide. While age might play a minor role in technology acceptance or lack thereof, it is not a primary reason. Age is more of a moderating variable, changing the strength of the relationship. Age is just a number and you’re never too old to learn something new…or to adopt a new technology.
The more you know
So now you know that carefully evaluating a technology and what makes it right (or not) for your situation is crucial to its successful acceptance. Make sure you ask the right questions, and then take a good, hard look at whether that new technology is helpful or simply overwhelming. Once you have those answers, you’ll be on your way.
With CES kicking off this week, the headlines are filling up with new tech trends, such as the curved TV. So what new gadget/technology is tugging at your wallet in 2014?
 Davis, F. D. (1989) Perceived usefulness, perceived ease of use, and user acceptance of information technology. MIS Quarterly, 13(3), 319-340. doi:10.2307/249008
 Venkatesh, V., Bala, H. (2008). Technology acceptance model 3 and a research agenda on interventions. Decision Sciences, 39(2). doi: 10.1111/j.1540-5915.2008.00192.x