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Published:July 14th, 2008 17:56 EST
What is Technology, Really?

What is Technology, Really?

By Joel G. Block (Mentor/Columnist)

I am tremendously confused. I don`t have any idea anymore what technology is. I went to college in the early 1980s; I got my first job in the middle 80`s and really cut my teeth in my career in the late 80`s. That`s when I first started making my money.

And in the late 80`s, computers burst onto the scene, along with fax machines and calculators and all the other devices that we were excited to get in that decade. To us, that was technology.

Technology meant little gadgets that helped us to be better at whatever it was that we were doing. Technology helped us to be faster; it helped us write a better letter; and it helped us calculate numbers more accurately. That experience began forming my understanding of technology: little machines that helped us do better in our world.

As the decades progressed, I came to understand that technology is really more about systems for being more effective and more efficient, and it doesn`t necessarily have to be attached to a physical product. A technology can be something that is more amorphous. defines technology as "a broad concept that deals with a species` usage and knowledge of tools and crafts, and how it affects a species` ability to control and adapt to its environment."

I can live with the wiki definition. But recently, the boundaries of the word "technology" have been stretched beyond my comprehension. I was standing in the shower getting ready to wash my hair the other day when I looked at the shampoo bottle. Now, this is really cool shampoo. A partner in one of my deals owns a large bottling company in Los Angeles, and he produces finished product for a high end personal hygiene company. So, he gave me some samples. It`s a wonderful peppermint shampoo. It tingles my scalp and makes me feel great. But right on the bottle, it says that this shampoo represents a new technology in hair care. In my experience, shampoos are not technology. Shampoos are soap for hair and calculators are technology.

I was confused. When I go shopping in a bicycle store, they tell me that they sell equipment with new geometry which is a whole new technology. Bikes are round tires and gears. That`s how it was when I grew up. Now it`s geometry and technology. See my March 17, 2008 blog post on selling bicycles ( Maybe bikes are more sophisticated now but geometry and technology sounds like a great way to raise prices by describing new value.

The word "technology" has become a marketing word. It`s a little tricky and maybe even deceptive to consumers because the boundaries of that critical word that all of us have grown up with have been stretched beyond recognition.

So, as you are working hard every day to build your company, or as you`re building your career, be on the lookout for words that are stretched, and maybe you will take the lesson and start stretching a few words yourself. I can`t suggest what you do. I just know that when I see a word that I am familiar with in a context that seems unusual, it makes me stop and think which is exactly the reason the marketer put it there in the first place. Just ask yourself if the stretch is really a great idea.

About Joel G. Block, President of Growth-Logic, Inc.
Often dubbed a "Growth Architect" by his clients, Joel Block advises companies on explosive growth strategies by driving revenue and sales. Well known in the capital markets, Joel is a successful entrepreneur, speaker and advisor. To bring Joel into your company, please visit or Also, be sure to check out our newest project: a blog to organize the blogs that cover entrepreneurship - And finally, for film makers:  - our newest project.