The Internet, Project Management Software, and Our Brains

August 25, 2011 by  Filed under: Management 

In my articles, I have often talked about the implications of web-based communication and how the internet has affect how we manage projects today. I have traced parts of history, showing how certain technological advancements have affected us for good and for bad. Though every technology seems to have an audience split between thinking negatively or positively about innovation and invention, I maintain the same opinion of prominent philosopher Zygmunt Bauman who said (and he may have been quoting someone else), “What has a use has an abuse.”

There are a lot of technophobes out there who refuse to use the internet for a variety of reasons. To me, most strange among those internet-fearing people are those that are project managers. Perhaps when they think of the internet, they think of the problems (the “abuses”) associated with Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Wikipedia, then associate those with the workplace. “I can’t use Facebook and Twitter to manage projects” one might say. I agree; however, such project managers are not seeing the “medium” in which the content is delivered. Of course you can’t use Facebook and Wikipedia for projects, but a “Facebook” style delivery method of communication and a “Wikipedia” style of collaboration couldn’t be more ideal. What a better way to manage projects then through web-based tools where communication is instantaneous and documented, reporting processes are automated, and business critical data can be managed and shared from any location in the world with an internet connection.

That said, I would like to look at the views of those who believe the internet influences our minds and our society in a bad way. Though I do not exactly agree with all of their ideas, the proponents of this theory do present some sound arguments. One claim that I think is most prevalent is that of modern philosopher Nicholas Carr, author of The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains. Supported with in-depth research and case studies, Carr discusses the ways in which the internet actually reshapes our neurological paths, making the human mind process information in a different way. The linear left-to-right method of reading a book, he explains, is being replaced by skimming, up-and-down page jumping, and hyperlink clicking. Although the access to knowledge is quick and convenient, Carr argues that an in-depth search through content for wisdom is subtly fading from human culture.

What this means to humanity overall is something I don’t wish to discuss in this article, but it can be related to project management. For myself, I feel that it is true that the internet has changed the way I read books, and I think it translates into how project management software can be used. With books, I’m less able to focus, more prone to skip, and easily forgetful of what I actually read. I used to be much more involved in the pages. Well, in project management software, I think people can similarly get distracted by an interface with too many functions. Or, certain reporting tools can skew what a project is actually about. I think the biggest problem is how a project manager is able to skim over projects and people as if they didn’t matter. It is as if they are looking for only what they want to see.

This is definitely due to the effects of the internet. However, as I said before, “What has a use has an abuse.” I think it is an “abuse” to take for granted what project management software doesn’t have to offer. There are times when you have to step back from the tool and work with other mediums. There are times when you have to actually talk to people – authentic face-to-face communication can only be done in real life. Project management isn’t about finding a tool, making a plan and executing. Project management is about knowing when to use (or not use) the tool and when to follow (or not follow) the plan. Project management is about leadership and empowerment.

Combining his personal experiences, social observations, and a variety of philosophies, Robert Steele provides explanations to today’s best practices of business management. He is an avid contributor to the ongoing discussion regarding the implications of project management software.

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