It’s been interesting to watch the discussion of technology in marketing, especially online and most notably about conversational media such as Twitter, on this hallowed space, on the Legal Marketing Association listserv and other spaces for the last few weeks. I was especially caught up in the back and forth by Jayne Navarre and Matt Sherman, my fellow Coolerites, both with passionate and well-reasoned points of of view. But one thing Jayne said really hit me square in the gut:

“An in-house director has to be a little of everything to a lot of people. Studying how technology works is often just not practical.”

If we ask ourselves why this shift to technologies has been occurring with increasing rapidity, the answers are obvious.

  1. We are an information-age society and economy. Profit proceeds from addressing process needs with technological solutions. Starting and ending points remain fixed, but getting there is increasingly information technology-based.
  2. Technology (and especially computer and internet applications of technology) is a world in which most people under 25 have been immersed as a matter of course. My children do not remember a time when our house was computer-free and online access-disabled. Those days are a dimming memory for me, as well. It is as natural for them (and ever more of us) to look to computers for tools to accomplish their goals as it was once for us to look to photographs on film or X-acto knives.
  3. The push for productivity across the spectrum of work is largely dependent on information technology because we cannot manufacture more human energy or time in a day, so the richest option open to get more work done in the same time is automation. Decisions are made of aggregated information bits, experience and wisdom (which is a form of knowledge ecology), and collection and distillation are largely add, subtract and compare processes, which semiconductors do with incredible speed.
  4. There is no known limit to the inventiveness of the human mind. As ideas become new tools, they are themselves modified by use and new application. Therefore, there is a constant evolution with which we must grapple.

Jayne’s admonition to the contrary, my strong belief is that, for us to be a valuable part of the wisdom of our firm and its business growth through marketing, we must try every new solution. Our experience is the fundamental entry point for our firms into technology that improves client relationship management, communication, knowledge demonstration and prospect development. It may be that, after our initial experience, we judge a particular solution not useful given our firm’s culture and brand. Or we may become evangelists for a tool or set of tools. In any case, we can’t make that judgement, exercise our wisdom, at a distance. Deciding to stand pat or to move with a new tool is dependent on our willingness to give it our attention.

Asking “what’s next?” is still important. But “are you ready to try it?” is much more crucial. Are you?