The 7 Common Success Traps, Part 1: Overreliance on Technology and Automation

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The “seven common success traps” are the traps I’ve learned about over the course of my career working with clients and collaborators from some of America’s top organizations, including Fortune 50 and Fortune 500 companies. These traps are based on both my personal experience and the stories shared by my clients and collaborators. 

These success traps can and do happen to the best of us. They can even destroy massively successful, well-established companies. It behooves us to understand what they are so that we can recognize when we’re in their vicinity and, if we can’t avoid them altogether, at least make it out alive.

That’s why I’ve written a book about these traps and why I’ll be exploring these seven traps on over the coming months. I hope that my books and articles will help companies overcome these traps — especially now, amid one of the most challenging economic climates we’ve ever seen.

Read the rest of the series:

Part two
Part three
Part four

Why do so many of us so readily give in to automation and technology when it comes to the way we do business? Why do we always assume more technology = better? Might there be some value to real-time, face-to-face human interaction?

Do we ever stop to think about the potentially negative impacts of technology on our businesses and customers? Do we see how using Facebook Messenger, Zoom calls, emails, social media posts, and text messages for 90+ percent of our daily communication impedes our ability to connect with people?

My feeling is that most of us don’t — and if we do, we simply continue relying on technology because we feel we have no other choice. After all, everyone else is doing it this way.

And this problem — the obstruction of connection — is only going to get worse now that everything is virtual by necessity. But you do have a choice. You can make your company one of the few that intentionally prioritizes real, direct, human connection.

Are You Hiding Behind Chatbots?

For the record, I am not denying that we need to evolve with the times. I am not denying that technology can help us cut costs and help our businesses thrive. The success trap is not the use of technology itself — it’s an unhealthy relationship to technology. If we don’t take steps to change it, we’re in for a rude awakening.

For example, it seems as though 99 percent of companies are more than happy to replace their customer service teams with automated chatbots. Speaking as someone who likes being productive, I don’t think calling my internet company to handle a small issue should require navigating a maze of options dictated by a robot voice. It’s ridiculous and exhausting — and it’s not unique to the pandemic.

Sure, automation existed before COVID-19, but the necessity of social distancing only made it worse. Unless we make a concerted effort to reinvest in human connection, I fear we’ll emerge from the pandemic more reliant on technology than ever.

Why is this a problem from a business perspective? First, understand that our attention spans have gotten shorter and shorter — and technology is one of the big culprits behind this. And technology use has also been linked to stress, anxiety, and depression.

So our overreliance on technology has damaged our emotional-processing and decision-making abilities. It has slashed our attention spans. How do you expect to win new business or retain existing customers if your over-automated processes make people feel stressed and depressed? How can you build real human connections with clients and consumers if you hide away behind all your technology tools?

Business Is All About People

But I get it — I get the temptation to sit back and let technology do all the heavy lifting for you. As a business owner myself, and a solopreneur for a long time, I know the urge to automate as much as you can so that you can put some work into those other nine departments of your business, which you have been sorely neglecting.

But much to my disappointment, I’ve also learned that technology doesn’t always work the way we think it will. I’ve learned, over and over again, that I need to be present as a human being for at least some of the process.

Mark my words (and I reserve the right to be wrong here): Companies that become overreliant on technology in their communications with staff and customers will pay the price. On the other hand, companies that understand the inherent value of authentic connection and the intangible benefits of real human interactions will thrive in the months and years ahead.

People are craving connection more than ever. While Zoom calls and Facebook groups are great ways to connect with people when we can’t be together, they aren’t full replacements for face-to-face interactions. While certain technologies can be wonderful additions to your company, they shouldn’t come at the expense of all human-to-human conversation.

We have come to worship technology as a god. Some of us wouldn’t know how to survive a single day without some kind of technology to assist us. Not that’s scary!

Just because everyone else is doing something a certain way doesn’t mean you have to follow in their footsteps. Pave your own way forward. Recognize that technology is fallible. It makes mistakes — quite often, in fact. It can also create significant disconnects between your company, your staff, and your customers.

Be the organization that values authentic connection above all else. Take the extra time to actively engage with your employees and customers — and then watch how everything around you flourishes.

When you are the exception to the norm, you stand out. You will be that much more desirable to work for and work with.

Scott Engler is an internationally recognized branding thought leader and LinkedIn specialist. Connect with him on LinkedIn to learn more.

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Scott Engler is an internationally recognized branding thought leader and LinkedIn specialist who has worked with Fortune 50 and 500 clients such as LinkedIn, BBVA, Hewlett-Packard, and Merck & Co. Along with a powerful and dynamic group of vetted specialists in different areas of marketing and branding (once referred to as the "LinkedIn A-Team), Scott now focuses on helping small to mid-sized companies build their brands. Any inquiries about the work he does can be sent directly through LinkedIn.
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