If you’ve followed any of my writing, social media posts, or work over time, you’ll see that two of the biggest recurring themes are business and technology.
As a sales professional, I care deeply about business and the people involved in it. Why? Because business runs the world. Without business, you have no exchange of goods or services–therefore basically eliminating every aspect of modern life as we know it. Sales professionals, to a large degree, keep the system moving. If you’re a sales professional, you have my utmost respect!
I also care about technology because I love creative thinking and ideas. At its core though, technology is the application of science on a practical level. Anytime you send an email, make a phone call, drive a car, order a pizza, or do pretty much anything else in the modern world, you can thank the countless scientists, inventors, technicians, and manufacturers (and salespeople!) who have given you that convenience.
Obviously, there are a lot of connections between these two areas of business and technology. But have you ever considered that business is the story of technology?
Thinking Deeper About Technology
Today, the word “technology” is often associated with Silicon Valley companies. But I prefer to think of it as any means to drive competitive differentiation using the resources available to you. For example, when humans started extracting metal out of the earth, that enabled new types of weapons technology. This naturally gave certain groups and cultures a competitive (and deadly!) advantage over other groups and cultures.
In addition to technology based on materials, there is also “people” technology. This is our way of deploying human resources to differentiate ourselves (or our company or group) from others.
All types of technologies can be copied, and that’s where culture plays a key role. Business leaders who build technologies based on a culture that embraces creativity, can adapt, and is willing to evolve, are harder to copy because they are rare. Why? Because it’s much easier to focus on technology and systems in business than it is to develop people skills.
Technology in the New World
One of the first major businesses that made efficient use of culture and technology is the Dutch West Indies Company, which brought to the New World a culture of tolerance and leniency. You could be any race or religion and still prosper because they combined their “technology” in human resources in an egalitarian way that promoted individuals, property rights for all, and meritocracy.
This happened in a time when most of the land was ruled in the European feudal system, where you were born into wealth—and if you weren’t, you’d never have it.
The Dutch system moved beyond people technology and into a new system of government. Today we call it capitalism. Even after the English took over New Amsterdam and renamed it New York, they saw that this port city on the lower tip of the island of Manhattan wasn’t held back by its chaos. Surprisingly, it thrived within the chaos.
That modern approach stayed in New York and spread out across the English colonies in America, and eventually the world.
American business exploded over the next couple hundred years, along with innovation, technology, and commerce. The agricultural and industrial revolutions propelled the United States into such success that by the first half of the 20th century, the United States had become the dominant economy in the world.
It had fully evolved into the modern model of skyscrapers, people commuting to work, and living in the suburbs, beginning in the postwar 1940s era. The TV show Mad Men portrays this era perfectly—a group of guys working in an office, wearing suits, and doing their best to conquer the world.
It may seem cool from a pop culture perspective, but the truth is that it was a very inefficient business model, particularly to shareholders. With each passing decade and each iteration of business, it became more corporate and less personal.
There is lots more we could say about this. Indeed, entire books have been written on tiny slices of this story. But for our purposes here, it’s important to note that today, business has gotten so impersonal, and so focused on optimization technology, that we are collectively worried about how it might take over entire industries through the use of AI.
Nobody knows how this story will end because it hasn’t been written yet. Even though we stand at an inflection point where everything seems to be at stake, as Business Artists we can choose to cut through the noise and contribute in a way that’s uniquely human.
That is our goal with Meahana, to use technology for good, to unlock creativity and drive rich human collaboration that happens live whether in person or virtual.