‘And was Jerusalem builded here, among these dark, Satanic Mills?’ Blake’s 1808 poem references a concern felt across Britain in the early 19th century. Many who lived through the Industrial Revolution possessed a deep fear of new technology.
Not only could the new technologies be physically dangerous to operate, they rearranged the social and family structure, thrust mankind out of circadian rhythm and represented a threat to employment and livelihood. The smoke and fire from the steam engines were also reminiscent of the ‘satanic’ images of hell described from the church pulpit.
Today’s issues regarding technology might be slightly different, but they still exist. Data and identity theft, surveillance, trolling and cybercrime are all very real concerns. Though Google’s motto is ‘don’t be evil’ one has to ask why they assumed we thought they might be – ‘the lady doth protest too much’? It certainly reminds us they have the capacity to be evil.
The moral debate over technological progress will forever be with us. However, for SMEs and start-ups, technology can be your friend – not something to be afraid of.
New technology has helped to level the playing field – allowing small businesses to compete with larger, established ones. Consider the smartphone. With the device in your pocket you have direct connectivity with clients, collaborators and potential customers. You may not have a PA, client managers, marketing or customer service departments but you can control all those aspects of your organisation from your location.
For a growing business, when you no longer have sole control, technology is still a boon. Cloud computing, software and apps allow your team to operate with synchronicity – maintaining the slicker, more efficient edge over businesses weighed down by bureaucracy.
The main perceived drawbacks – where the fear of technology creeps back in – are cost and training. How expensive are these advantages and how difficult will it be for my team and I to get to grips with using them?
The answers are ‘not very’ and ‘not very long’. Take social media technology as an example. The major platforms are free, with an option to pay for a premium service or promote your content if you so choose. This allows you to familiarise yourself with the platform, measure the impact your engagement is having and decide whether it is worth paying for.
You will also notice that all social media operates in a similar way. Once you have familiarised yourself with one platform you can understand and utilise most of them. Terminology may be specific – likes may become favourites – but the concept remains essentially the same.
The same is true for many business apps. They are often free, with an option to upgrade and work in such a way that mastering one will allow you access to many. The key thing to remember for a growing business (which may have a ‘bring your own device’ policy rather than issuing staff phones, tablets and laptops) is to look for apps and software that work across operating systems.
If you’re looking to start your own business and build your own Jerusalem, technology is not a dark satanic mill to be afraid of but a valuable construction tool which can help you punch above your weight and operate with efficiency and fluency.