New and Improved?
Just because something is new, doesn’t mean that it’s better. Better really needs to be defined
By André van Heerden, Communications Director
I have this theory that if Alexander Graham Bell invented texting back in 1876 instead of the phone and that phone calls were just recently invented (not texting), everyone would be calling people instead of texting. It’s quicker and easier and more personable.
You can tell if someone is being sarcastic or joking and really connect with someone in ways that texting can’t do. Plus you don’t get the embarrassing or problematic typos or autocorrect errors.
Similarly, if there had always been online shopping and in-person shopping just now became possible, I think in-person shopping would be all the rage. I remember seeing an advertisement for in-person shopping as experiencing real reality instead of virtual reality.
Imagine being able to actually try things on to see how they look and feel on you? Imagine getting advice and help from a live and present sales person to find what you’re looking for? Imagine not accepting that you’ll likely have to return whatever it is you’re purchasing because you can’t tell if you like it online?
Imagine being among other people instead of stuck in front of the same computer screen that you’ve been working on all week?
Just because something is new, doesn’t mean that it’s better. I’ve argued in the past that we shouldn’t assume that whatever tool we’re using is the best. Sometimes new may just mean more options, more complications, and more things to go wrong.
Better really needs to be defined. And defined in such a way that it’s open to change, but not open to just anything. It has to be objectively better.
Does it do something faster? Is it more reliable? Is it more durable? Is it simpler or easier to understand and use?
Overall, does it make your work or your life, simpler—or is it just something new to have? At a certain point, too many new things will diminish our ability to effectively use what we do have.
In my previous work, I had bosses who were always after the newest thing. It felt like every time we got together to begin working on a project, we had to wait for them to figure out whatever the newest tool for helping us was.
And by the time they did, we had lost our moment to get work done, or they realized we needed yet another tool to help, or there was something else new out there to try. Better for them was definitely defined as new—regardless of what the output was.
At some point, the work has to be done, and time and effort has to be expended. The trick is finding which tool is going to help you the most in doing it.
And it may be that different tools are going to be preferred by different people. But claiming that because something is old it therefore can no longer do the job is the same as assuming that just because something is new that it can.
There are some amazing things from the past that we can’t duplicate today, and new things that we just don’t need.
So if you need to communicate something that’s complicated, or needs a discussion, or a personal touch, give the person a call. Texting may be better when it’s a simple message, or you’re not looking for an immediate response, or you want to avoid phone tag, but it shouldn’t automatically be the default.
Texting may be the new and modern way of communicating, but I’d argue that in many ways it’s not better than what was invented 150 years ago. Define what better actually is before choosing what tool to use.