Monkey see, monkey do

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I have been genuinely tormented with the title for this article and a few times thought of changing it but my sensibilities lost out and the original title remains.

Many writers find it easier to begin with the body and then decide on the title later but I need a title before the creative juices can flow and that was the same situation that got me in trouble over 15 years ago when I was sued for an article titled “3 Blind Mice”. But that is a story for another time.

What got the monkey on my back, in relation to technology, is the misuse of gadgets by many of us who should know better if only we would become less primate in our behaviour.

I was one of the chosen few to have a mobile phone in the ‘90s when it cost over Kshs 100,000 and one paid for both in and outgoing calls at Kshs 36 yet it stopped being a status symbol to me quite a while back.

Interestingly, those who bought their first mobile phones at Kshs 999 with a free SIM card and make calls at Kshs 4 per minute treat it like a life line. They insist on picking up calls everywhere and anywhere even while driving at 140 kilometres per hour down the highway and yet the phone has a missed call feature and voicemail.

We watched another ape talk on the phone while driving and as the title says, we picked up the same habit and when a law is passed to save you from your stupidity, you rush to court claiming to be defending your inalienable traditional rights.

That is only the rim of the ice bucket, text and social media are the icy cold bottom of this jungle behaviour. I arrived late to the social media scene but as the well-schooled person that I am, the first thing I did was read about what it is and how it works.

Many users of this leading edge technology have absolutely no clue how to utilise (note I did not use the word ‘use’) these most potent tools and instead follow the ways of other members of the troop, believing that it is the right way.

Most social media sites are a combination of broadcast (traditional TV) and on demand (video cassette) but many users think that it is only a broadcast stream, therefore they spend the entire day and night watching the feed scroll by making sure they do not miss a beat.

This problem unfortunately transcends gender and age, which raises a serious concern about our ability to utilise technology. I love reading those reports about Kenyan’s with Internet access as a form of entertainment.

Fortunately, a few people have become immune to this aping problem which has worked to my advantage in the recent past. We were tendering for the design and implementation of a new data centre for which we provided a radically new approach and product to dealing with issues of cooling and environment sensing.

For the first time in a long time, there was not the usual obsession with ‘who else has done this’ and instead, there was more of ‘is this the future?’ The client and consultants were receptive and open to experimenting, which clearly shows why the particular organisation is blazing new trails in there industry.

After that commercial break and back to the issue of the troops, when you want to be a leader in your industry, you cannot afford the ‘me too’ approach to issues. A recent statistic indicates how WhatsApp had a team of 55 which was giving Facebook, with a team of 7,000 employees, a run for their IPO dollars.

It seems Facebook had lost touch with the LEAN and Agile methodologies and decided to follow the Microsoft FAT approach. It seems with size, you become susceptible to all kinds of new ailments and also become slower and less flexible.

You can resolve this by becoming the troop leader in your industry as following the troop results in your constantly playing catch-up.

We keep seeing the same scene being replayed over and over again, such as with where we blindly follow India and Egypt in developing techno cities without localizing the solution and taking into consideration the peculiarity of the country or reading the studies done that highlight the short comings of Silicon Valley.

(This article has been reproduced from the May’15 edition of CIO East Africa magazine)

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