Tag Archives: productivity

Technology and Leadership: A Powerful Combination…for Better or Worse 

Taking a class—and pursuing a degree—based on leadership is an interesting exercise. Not only are there many opinions about leadership, but there are also many opinions about leaders and the value of leadership training. One could look at leadership as a personal journey of self-expression, or a mission to change the world, or a daily exercise in running a business, or some combination of all these things and more. Ultimately, leadership is an idea/ideal that means something a little different to everyone who lives it. For me, my own leadership ends up being a reflection of who I am and how I see the world, and even if it is the best of all possible approaches for me, it may not resonate or work for anyone else as a template for leadership. In other words, I think leadership is personal but it emanates outward and impacts everyone I touch, and so leadership—or whatever you may call it—is extremely important.

Connecting leadership with technology adds another dimension that makes an already complicated topic even more confusing. First, technology—like leadership—is all around us in an infinite number of ways. Technology touches everything we do and affects how we do it. Second, technology is changing rapidly and so keeping up with technology is just as challenging as knowing how to best leverage it as a leader. Third and finally, technology is so overwhelming (maybe because of its omnipresence) that it often becomes the focus and overshadows the message it is attempting to facilitate. In other words, it can be a distraction, a temptation, and a way to avoid or miss what is truly important.

With all that being said, leadership and technology are truly a powerful combination. Whether the combination is positive or negative is up to the user. Kevin Kelly, in his book The Inevitable, talks about twelve technological forces that will impact our future. Most of the forces resonated with me, but the idea that stuck with me the most is his description of “filtering.” The idea is there is so much information—more than we could ever hope to absorb—that how we choose to find, sort, and absorb information (aka filtering) is critically important. If we passively absorb whatever shows up on the screen in front of us, we will be at the mercy of whoever is making filtering decisions for us. This allows us to see what someone else wants us to see, prioritize someone else’s agenda, and understand truth through a different lens. Even if we choose being proactive over passive and we manage our own information, we are still forced to trust the filters we use, because there are so many filters and sources of information. So, filtering is also an exercise in making good choices about what and who to trust. Beyond that, it is also about discernment, because blind trust is a bad idea no matter how good the filter. The takeaway for me is to understand I am filtering (or being filtered to) and to proactively and wisely work through this process so I can use the tools technology has to offer and live well and be an effective leader.

This class has also raised some excellent questions (another Kelly force: the value of asking great questions) about the nature of leadership in the digital age. Michele Martin from the Bamboo Project talks about leadership being non-hierarchical in part because of our networked world. Everyone has access to information and learning, and can be impactful because of access. Michele defines leadership as “hosting the space for people to come together to discover solutions through meaningful conversations and structured exploration and action.” Rather than trying to influence a group—a popular, but misguided approach to leadership according to Gianperro and Jennifer Petriglieri —leadership should be more about representing a group and working on behalf of those people.

Finally, Michele Martin also mentioned Peter Drucker on the Bamboo Project link above. One of Drucker’s famous quotes is “Management is doing things right. Leadership is doing the right things.” This quote resonates with me as much as anything else because in today’s networked world I could spend all day (every day) doing the “right thing.” I could respond to every email, meet every deadline, attend every meeting, read every leadership book, and burn myself out to the point that I’m tempted to follow Christopher McCandless Into the Wild. The key is to focus on the “right things” and forgo volume for quality, whether that be in activities, relationships, work responsibilities, etc. In this way, leadership style becomes lifestyle. And, maybe that is the point here. As the lines between work, home, family, the physical and the network become more and more blurred together, it is important to understand how it is all interconnected and works together (or not). As it becomes harder to separate and differentiate, it is also critical to understand what (and why it) is happening to ultimately avoid getting lost in the network.

Evernote: Do I Want to Remember Everything?

Evernote is a service that, according to its website, “helps people focus on what matters most to them.” The basic function of Evernote is to provide a platform for taking notes, but it does much more. It allows users to record notes, collaborate simultaneously, capture data in a variety of forms within the software, and customize their experience.

In the vision of Evernote’s founder, Stepan Pachikov, Evernote is conceptually designed to “remember everything” and it functions as an extension of the brain by remembering the past, building connections, and creating new ideas for the future.

There are myriad ways Evernote might be used in leadership, both for individual leaders and for leadership of a team or organization. As an individual, Evernote enables leaders to take notes and capture ideas in virtually any format and then organize them in the way that makes the most sense for each person. Notes can be sorted, tagged, shared, and then accessed on any device. As a team, Evernote allows groups to work together virtually and collaborate on a document or a project simultaneously. It allows work to be shared among team members in a common web-based work setting or within a virtual bulletin board-type platform.

If there is a downside to Evernote, it may just be user preference. My own personal experience with Evernote goes back to 2012. I have continuously looked for the best way to be organized, efficient, and productive. I have used all sorts of platforms including word documents, excel workbooks, Microsoft Outlook and its tools, services and apps including Wunderlist, Smartsheet,  Cozi, and Apple’s Notes and Reminders. In every case, I tend to use the tool for a while and then after a while I lose interest and then move on to the next possibility when I realize it is time to get my act together again. I have picked Evernote back up multiple times after breaks of various lengths. I think my difficulty with Evernote is one of its most basic premises: remember everything. In my own life, remembering everything is not the problem, prioritizing is my main challenge. I don’t want to remember everything, and I don’t have the time or the energy to try. Evernote tempts me to record and store stuff I may never need to see again, and all it ends up doing is cluttering both my brain and my Evernote database. I get that there are many ways I can organize my data so that it is easy and straightforward to access and keep straight, but at this point I value simplicity and that is something I do not think Evernote provides, at least in my own experience. With that being said, I do continue to use Evernote on occasion and during my reading this week I realized I can get the Premium Evernote service for half price as a Creighton student, so I bought the subscription and will see if I can improve on my experience this time around.

In Kevin Kelly’s The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 technological forces that will shape our future, he talks about different unstoppable trends. In the first three chapters, he discusses the forces of Becoming, Cognifying, and Flowing. In each case, Evernote is already making use of these technological forces in the service it offers. Becoming, or the phenomenon of constant change and development, is manifested in Evernote. The company was formed in 2008 and has undergone constant change and development since that time. Cognifying, or the process of making inanimate objects more intelligent through artificial intelligence, is something Evernote has used extensively in a couple major ways. One, they partnered with Moleskin in 2012 to collaborate on a digital-friendly notebook that allowed users to upload handwriting in the notebook to Evernote’s digital platform. Two, they not only made handwritten notes searchable, but the entirety of one’s account can be searched for content across all the different types of data within Evernote. Flowing, or the idea of real-time access and updates, fits with Evernote’s vision because the service allows notes to be tagged, data to be stored on the cloud and accessed from any device, and it all to happen in real-time.

Finally, Evernote improves productivity because it allows an practiced user to stay organized by not only storing data but making it easier to sort and find later. Evernote has also partnered with a variety of other companies to integrate offerings including Microsoft Outlook, Google Drive, Salesforce, and Slack, among others. My overall impression of Evernote is very positive as I can see the value of what it offers even though my own personal experiences have been mixed because of my own preferences and tendencies.