Strategies to Adopt New Technology in Stressful Times

In this article, I want to talk about how technology CAN work for parks and recreation professionals (or really... anyone!), even though the learning curve may seem challenging.

Written By: 

Becky Dunlap, CPRP

The value of local parks has never been higher. Trails, open spaces, and parks are safe spaces to practice social distancing while still honoring our mental and physical health.

To support professionals and agencies, we need to understand how to utilize technology for good.  In this article, I want to talk about how technology CAN work for parks and recreation professionals, even though the learning curve may seem challenging.

I’ll share the different questions that you should be asking as you consider working remotely. I’m a firm believer that it’s about using the RIGHT tools for your situation, which doesn’t always mean the best tools available, or the most expensive. You need to take a good look at your needs, then your resources, and decide what makes the most sense for your team.

First, though – it should be mentioned: Supportive leadership is the foundation for change to take place. I feel incredibly lucky that whenever I propose a new idea to my teammates at GreenPlay, I always have advocates in my corner cheering me on. We’ve created a culture of innovation to be the #leadingedge.

I know not all of us have had the best luck with adopting new things. Working in government can be tough. But now is the perfect time to adjust the company culture to adopt an open attitude towards new ideas and technology. The world still needs your services, and technology can help.

When it comes to choosing the right technology for your organization, here are some helpful questions that may guide you to understand how to research, learn, train, and adopt new tools.

Is your team ready?

It’s a legitimate question, and you need to consider how implementing a tool is a big change for a lot of people. There will always be those who are slow to adopt new things – that’s okay! In fact, they can be a huge resource for you. Get their feedback as early as possible. Understand the reasons why they might be against a new technology, and what obstacles you can remove for them.

Who can be your advocates?

An advocate – in this sense – is the person who will stand up for your idea if you’re not in a position of power. You will bring them into the conversation early, ask them for their feedback, and likely you’ll want them to challenge your ideas as much as possible. If they’re able to find your blind spots in a 1-on-1 meeting, you won’t be caught off guard in a group setting.

What is the adoption timeframe?

It could take up to 3-6 months to get a hang of a simple tool like Zoom, and several years to fully utilize a complex tool like project management software. That’s why it’s so important to choose the rights tools upfront.

What happens if it fails?

In all likelihood, you will try something that you won’t like. The team just won’t “get it” or it doesn’t meet your expectations. Be real about that possibility up-front, and give it a trial period of 3,6, 12 months so you’re not surprised. Are you and your agency prepared to pivot when the time comes?

How do I introduce more than one technology at a time?

My advice… try to avoid it. Tackle one problem at a time. If you move too fast, you will lose the momentum and energy will be dispersed.

How will we communicate?

Is email enough, or should we look at tools like Slack or Twist for text communication? Is an audio/video method preferred – something like Zoom or GoToMeeting?  Where, when, and how should we conduct how meetings?

How will we manage our work?

For the things that we need to accomplish during this strange time, how will we manage them? Is the back-and-forth through email the best way, or can we use a project management tool like Microsoft Teams, Wrike, Asana, or Monday.com?  What investment will we need in training, time, and knowledge? It takes TIME and EFFORT to be properly trained, and that’s IF everyone on your team is on-board with it. Be realistic and don’t underestimate the time it will take to adopt a new tool.  Who can I reach out to for help? Find those who have done it before – and let them mentor you, preventing you from making the same mistakes they made.

And perhaps after you’ve worked your way through these questions, you’ll want to ask: What is the simplest, most effective strategy for my team?  Focusing on the next right thing is how to your idea into reality, strategically.

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Becky Dunlap, CPRP
Becky Dunlap, CPRP