In his 2004 book, The Paradox of Choice, Barry Schwartz explained why minimizing the purchasing options reduces consumer anxiety. His theory explained that too many choices can not only lead to paralysis of action, but also to frustration despite having obtained what we wanted: choosing one thing implies not having the others.
It is easy to extrapolate Barry’s reflection to the field of new technologies, which opens up infinite worlds of possibilities, demanding more time to get to know them and decide whether they are convenient for us or not. All this on top of our daily tasks.
In our experience, finding a method, or shortcut, to scan what’s going on in the industry and understand the purpose of the upcoming tools is essential to keep up to date without giving room to anxiety or despair.
In this article, we’ll share with you our five steps to learning about a new technology faster, and getting a nice grasp on what they are all about.
Step 1: Frame its origin — from where does it emerge?
When you stumble upon a technology for the first time, it is probably because you were browsing certain kinds of information, either online or in-presence (conferences, festivals, etc.). Think about how did you find it and look up who invented it or used it for the first time: going to the source might help you to understand its essence better.
A tool is designed to solve certain specific problems and knowing the circumstances in which it was conceived, who thought of it and designed it, can bring you closer to its main function, even before you have touched it. Of course, this is only a first assumption, so keep it in mind but don’t be biased.
Step 2: Break down the fundamentals
Once you have framed the possible “why” this technology exists, and you feel aligned with this original purpose, it is time to understand what are its basic functions. No need to dig into the pro version, just focus on the core tools, the center of its purpose.
Download a trial version or take advantage of those free subscription days to become a user and spend a couple of hours — or less — checking out what are the highlights and how the functionalities relate to each other. You will discover the logic behind the philosophy.
Step 3: Imagine a possible use
Great, now you have the references, you’ve got a birds-eye-view of what its main tools are. Now it is time to think about possible scenarios and what are the solutions that the tool brings to approach them.
Try to avoid imagining a surrealistic context, just picture yourself in a day-to-day situation, with your current team and the other tools you already use. According to what you have perceived and the firm knowledge about your workflows, how could you apply this novelty?
What specific implications would it have for your team (onboarding, learning curve)? What does it add to what you already have and, importantly, do you have the time to implement this?
Step 4: Try it out. Many times
Everything fits perfectly so you decide to take the next step, which represents a bit of a leap: gain first-hand experience. Create a small personal or internal project to confirm its real advantages for you and your team and, above all, whether it fits your work style and standard procedures or improves them in any way.
Are your first impressions of the logic and workflow confirmed? Is the interface intuitive? Are the tools easy to use? Does it integrate well with your set-up? And most importantly, does it bring new solutions or perspectives to make it worthwhile?
Try it in different scenarios and write down the benefits and frictions and ask your team to do the same. After this short tryout, you can share the results, maximizing the perspectives about it. Also, if you decide to implement it, it would have been a joint decision — always the way to go.
Step 5: Join communities of practice
Few things can be more valuable than the community that grows around an innovation. These people help create a better tool, improve it according to real user cases, and more importantly, help each other solve problems and discover its possibilities.
Join them on Discord, Facebook, Twitch, YouTube or any other platform they use. Whether you engage with them in a passive way, skimming through their conversations and videos, or actively engaging with other users and sharing content you have created yourself, feeling the pulse of the community can be critical to your decision to adopt this new technology or not.