How low-tech people can lead high-tech companies

I'm not sure if I should make this confession so readily, seeing as I'm the CEO of a multi-media brand with touch points that include a print and online magazine, a social media community, e-books and many more multi-media products, but … when it comes to technology I am not exactly fluent.

I use my iPhone for its basic, human functions (calling, Tweeting, taking photos of my dog Benny); I own an iPad, but had to ask a team member to download Microsoft Word onto it for me. I fall just short of referring to "The Facebook".

And yet, I'm not the only low-tech CEO running a high-tech company. I know many managers, bosses and co-founders who commandeer complex companies where most of the work goes on in the Cloud, despite they fact they struggle to program a DVD recorder.

Here are five tips to faking your inner geek until you make it:

Teach what you need to learn

This is one of my favourite tactics, and is easy for me to practise as the founder of an entrepreneurial magazine.

When I need to know the best way to keep in touch with freelancers across the world, how to set up an online course, or find the best platforms for selling e-books, I simply write an article on it. It's usually the case that, if I'm interested in the answer to these questions, our readers will be interested, too.

Want to educate yourself? Google Tech Talks and also the technology category of TED Talks are great places to find engaging, interesting conversation that will actually make you want to learn more.

Focus on what's relevant

As much as I'd love to be able to code websites and expertly edit a video to Hollywood standards, these are not skills I need to perform my job on a daily basis. So when it comes to improving my knowledge bank, instead of trying to be the master of all, I focus on skills that will really improve my work practice.

For me, this mean how to use technology to enable me to work better on the move, as I'm constantly travelling for speaking gigs and meetings. This is why my current focus is utilisation of my iPad, and why in my spare moments you'll find me on Apple forums, reading about ways that other people are using it to free themselves from the office.

Crowdsource youth

This isn't just about hiring Millennials who are naturally more computer-competent just because of the decade they were born in. I also grill my friends' teenage children, and love hearing feedback from younger readers of the magazine about how they are using technology to make their lives easier.

I recently read about a middle school in central California that has implemented a program called GenYES, in which teachers show students how to collaborate with adults, plan technology lessons and trouble-shoot problems. Then the GenYES students work one-on-one with the teachers to help them integrate technology in the classroom.

If you don't know the answer, don't be intimidated to ask the What's App generation.

Learn a foreign language

By this I mean, encourage your more technologically proficient colleagues, team members and acquaintances to use jargon around you, rather than stripping tech talk from their conversation.

I know CEOs who have a no-jargon rule in meetings, because it makes them feel less competent when they can't understand what is being said. But, just like learning a foreign language, if you don't test yourself and immerse yourself, you'll never become the person who can drop phrases like "geo-mapping" and know how to pronounce "GUI" with confidence.

Don't blame your gender

This is an important point I want to finish on. My lack of technological fluency is not because I am a female CEO. In fact, some of the most brilliantly tech-savvy geniuses that I know are women. I will never use my gender as an excuse for not improving, just as you will never hear me say, "Oh, but men are generally more technologically minded than us."

I recently heard Marita Cheng, Young Australian of the Year and the founder of the educational program Robogals, speak at a conference about the work she is doing to encourage young girls to take up engineering.

It was wake-up call to me that no-one should be intimidated by technology, and only your own shyness at learning will hold you – and your company – back in the end.

Do you embrace technology in your professional life or shun it?

The founder and editor-in-chief of The Collective, a monthly business and lifestyle magazine, Lisa Messenger has become a leading authority on the business world, specialising in entrepreneurship and disruption. She has authored or co-authored more than a dozen books and three times been a finalist in the Telstra Businesswoman of the Year awards.

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