Recently, I’ve been seeing a lot of ads for an interesting weight-loss app. The company leverages technology to help people change their mindset to make long-term changes to achieve weight-loss goals. The app focuses on making tangible, sustainable lifestyle shifts rather than encouraging more extreme styles of eating. It fosters a sense of community by placing each user into a group facilitated by a coach which offers true 24/7 connection and encouragement as well as more opportunity for accountability and interaction – much like in the real life.
This is an example of when technology can be an enabler for development. It can help people set accountability structures and allow access to new ideas and new ways of thinking. There are many digital tools that enable users to reflect and go through a curated learning experience. Yet, there is undeniable power in human connection and community.
Technology, while it’s getting more robust, is not meant to replace human interaction. Consider that colleague who is able to challenge you around your deepest held belief or that friend who is able to hold up the mirror to help you see yourself more clearly. When’s the last time an app did that for you?
There’s a lot of discussion about the use of eLearning in leadership development and employee training. Yet using technology as an exercise in efficiency to simply check the boxes does not equal development. Just because somebody took an online class — went through some PowerPoints and took a quiz at the end — doesn’t mean that they will change their behavior or apply their learning. Connecting with others has clear advantages – especially when it comes to being able to customize content and adapt to the learner’s needs. This allows for deeper engagement, resulting in more of the information being understood, retained, and put to future use. And let’s not forget the importance of building relationships through discussion and debate. You may argue that many people do just that on social media, but so many communication nuances are lost when you take away the face-to-face interaction. As a rule, communication is only 7% verbal and 93% non-verbal (55% body language and 38% tone of voice).
Advances in technology allow us to work on the go, stay socially connected, and even meet our weight-loss goals. They also coincide with dividing our attention between screens and social interactions. But technology is not a replacement to building real connections, the people-centered approach at the heart of Values Based Leadership. When technology is at its best, it helps us connect. When it doesn’t, technology misses the mark of true development.