Musings on designing experiences & (re)engineering complexity

Jun 2019

Technical Literacy As Currency

Every org is a tech org, every tech is it’s currency

In some engagements, the product is simply to raise the floor of a specific team or role’s technical literacy. This might mean training on a particular platform or application, connecting the dots between existing practices, or carefully appraising incoming personnel’s skill sets. In all cases, one of the arguments made is that no matter the application of the business’ attention, they are a technical organization. Their ability to skillfully use, adapt to, and moderate themselves (individually and collectively) will determine if that literacy is profitable or detrimental.

What amounts to functional literacy is different than even 15-20 years ago. It used to be words per minute was the metric of literacy. Nothing about the quality of the output, nothing about the ability to transform that into various other forms. Just input. Later, many industries evolved past WPM to Microsoft Office proficiency. Not merely being about input, this phrasing also meant the ability to transform and manipulate for specific ends. Unfortunately, it is a very wide request for proficiency (does one need to know mail merge for Word, how to create rules for Outlook, or how to write/edit VBA for macros in Excel). Sure, a good bit of this request for proficiency had to do with understanding how to find and leverage functionality. Yet, it was rarely stated this way. Weirdly enough, this phrasing actually leads to the gaps SaaS products have aimed at marketing.

So, if we agree that these were the leading steps of literacy over the past 30+ years of knowledge-based productivity, what does technical literacy look like now?

  • does it look like designing and/or building lightweight web applications
  • does it look like manipulating SaaS CRM, BI, or other data analytic applications
  • does it look like creating and managing media streams on services like TikToc, Instagram, Pinterest
  • does it look like selling and branding content thru entities like Etsy, Alibaba, etc.

Or, is it creating something else entirely, which adds the benefit of improving productivity, increasing stakeholder returns, or filling a social need?

Skillfully using, adapting, and moderating technology (individually and collectively) will determine if that literacy is profitable or detrimental. Technical literacy is the floor, and that floor will continue to evolve, just as our base uses of computing evolves.