Spending your technology dividends

In much the same way as we look at financial investments, putting our time, energy and money into technology should be done so with an eye on making a return. Whereas financial investments generally create a financial return on investment in, technology can generate a variety of benefits. Broadly I describe these as technology dividends.

Broadly there are four types of dividends; flexibility, productivity, monetary and quality.

Flexibility dividends arise because technology now allows us to work more easily across geographical and even chronological boundaries. Although many roles still require co-location with particular equipment or people (it is still incredibly difficult to be a work from home neurosurgeon or work from home mechanic) an increasing number of jobs can be done remotely and in different timezones.

Productivity dividends accumulate as we employ technology to do things faster. This could be as simple as sending an email as opposed to writing, printing, stamping and posting a letter or it could be through avoiding unnecessary travel by using Skype for a meeting. In both cases technology allows us to save time compared to what we did in the past.

Just as technology allows us to do things faster, it also allows us to do things cheaper. Monetary dividends are the cost savings we generate as a result of employing technology. Email is not only a faster way of sending a message compared to writing a letter, it also incurs a small fraction of the cost. The cost saving opportunities of technology include everything from cheaper airfares through easier comparison of prices, to cheaper music via streaming vs purchasing CDs.

Quality dividends are a result of doing better work (often whilst also doing it faster and cheaper). We can shoot HD video on our smartphones and edit it on free software cheaper, faster and more conveniently than a professional videographer could do five years ago. And we can make better, more informed and ultimately more valuable decisions because higher quality information is at our finger tips.

As technology continues to improve and we invest more time into using it, the question arises as to how we are going to spend our dividends? Much like with financial investments, some of these dividends might be reinvested, at other times we might want to cash them out.

When people say they’re not good with money it generally means that they don’t know how to spend it well, not that they don’t know how to earn it. I think the same applies to technology. People who think they aren’t good with technology probably lack intention on how to use their dividends. Rather than the flexibility to work from anywhere and when they want, they end up working everywhere and all the time. Rather than using their productivity to reclaim some time, they end up filling time with more work.

Last year both myself and my business manager Sunny cashed in part of our flexibility dividend. I used mine to move out of the city to the Mornington Peninsula where I work in my backyard studio, Sunny uses hers to remote work from her home in Manila. This year myself and my team are going to cash in some of our productivity dividend and experiment with a 30 hour work week.

What technology dividends have you generated and how are you planning to use them in 2017?

Teaching organisations about technology, social change, resilience and the future of work