Leverage – Literally

Leverage – Literally

"Give me a place to stand, and I shall move the earth with a lever" – Archimedes

"Give me the right program and I'll get this damn job done twenty times faster" – Steven Savage, many times.

I talk about leveraging technology a lot here, meaning taking advantage of the power of technology for our lives and career.  The word "leverage" is used casually by many people (including myself), but when it comes to technology, understanding that word is a key to using technology effectively.  If you understand the concept of "leverage" you have a very powerful tool for evaluating the usefulness of any given piece of technology.

OK, yes I'm going to go Language Geek on you.  Trust me, it's going to be worth it.

So when we talk about "leveraging" technology, that means in a way the technology we're talking about is a lever.  So what's a lever?

The classic lever is one of the classic six simple machines.  You know a lever – you place some long rigid object against another one (called a fulcrum), and it multiplies the force you use.  you probably use levers all the time, from formally when you move a refrigerator carefully to informally when you use a butter knife to try and pry apart the dinner plates that got stuck together (should have washed them first).

So a lever is something that multiplies the force used.  Leverage is the mechanical advantage of doing it.

Why this voyage into physics?  Because when we talk about leveraging technology what we really mean is that the technology, acting as a lever, multiplies the result of the effort applied.  If the technology does not do that, it's not a lever, it gives no leverage, and it may not be worth it.

Think about that for a moment.  The concept of Leverage, of the advantage, of the multiplied force, is what you want in your technology tools.

Then think about all the power available to you – apps, computers, POD, social media, etc.  These all promise power.  These all promise results that are out-sized for the effort you take to use them.  These things promise, in short, leverage.

And really thinking about what the word leverage means, thinking of the tools we have as real tools that let us multiply the results of our efforts, is a great guide to if they're any good.

Is that program really saving you time or letting you do more?

Is social media getting results you couldn't dream of – or wasting your time?

Is that new OS really worth it?

When you look at technology, think of levers.  Think of how they're all about multiplying the force applied.  Ask what the payoff is in using a piece of technology, what is the true gain you'd get with using it – if any?

Now you've got a tool to use.  The concept of Leverage.

The concept of Leverage gives you . . . leverage . . . but that's getting way too self-referential for me right now.

Steven Savage