Partner Experience With Technology

Like me and my GPS, George was relying too heavily on automated calculations based upon static data. The variables of life were not taken into consideration

Technology has improved our lives tremendously in the past few decades. The incredible proliferation of cell phones and laptop computers offers a vast amount of versatility in our work and personal lives. However, this same technology may in fact hinder our ability to do what it is designed to help us do — communicate.

On a recent car ride to a vaguely familiar location, I punched in the address of my destination into my vehicle’s global positioning system and proceeded to do this the instructions. When I neared the address, the system directed me to make a left turn. I was about to follow when I remembered there was road construction and a detour in that direction. Honestly, I was on auto pilot and probably would have followed along blindly if I hadn’t recognized a landmark near the traffic bottleneck. I was confident that I could navigate the final mile without relying entirely on my uninformed technological guide.

This is one instance where technology can get in the way of our usual decision making. But what really made me rethink our reliance on technology was a colleague’s recent near misstep with a much needed client. George was giving a price to a client for a 37-sq.-ft. entry/addition. He entered the specifications into the standard estimating software which he always uses. The software cranked out a number of $44,000. He was about to present the proposal to the client when reality thankfully struck him. That price worked out to $1,189 per sq. ft.

Upon closer inspection he found that the software over engineered the project requirements. He went back and adjusted the numbers based upon material choices and structural needs so ultimately he was able to get the price down to a more practical and realistic $19,000. Like me and my GPS, George was relying too heavily on automated calculations based upon static data input. The many variables of life were not taken into consideration in either scenario.

Successful design/build requires dialogue that goes beyond prefabricated formulas. Part of that dialogue should take into account the homeowners’ design needs and their financial goals. In this case, the homeowner was allowed to provide necessary information and input for her project. If she was presented with the first unrealistic proposal for $44,000, she would have been outraged at the cost and shown the builder the door as quickly as she could. She thankfully has since turned into a satisfied customer who has contracted with the builder for another project on her home as well as given two excellent referrals.

There is no doubt that computer-aided design, estimating software and graphics packages make our jobs much easier, more visually appealing and understandable for the average person. However, relying on these technologies too heavily at the expense of our better judgment or industry expertise is a dangerous pitfall of the 21st century.

In the final scene in the first Star Wars movie, Luke has the target in his sights and is relying on his star-fighter’s computer grid to guide his aim and save the day. As the music swells and our hero is zooming in to destroy the Death Star, we hear Obi Wan’s sage advice: “Use the Force, Luke.” Luke turns off the computer and relies on his instincts to blow the bad guys to smithereens. May the force be with you.

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