This blog deals with Dr. Eliyahu Goldratt’s six technology questions. Dr. Goldratt suggested that:
“Technology or innovation can deliver benefits if, and only if, it diminishes a
At some point, every company will introduce new developments involving technical, social or economic changes. How do you ensure that these changes are both innovative and used to maximum value or benefit?
With Dr. Goldratt’s Six Technology Questions, you can determine whether your new technology is able to resolve any existing limitations and constraint, and thus be significantly more beneficial.
1. What is the power of the new technology?
The aim of this question is to discuss basic information technology from the developer’s perspective.
Let’s imagine that your company wants to launch a new ERP software product onto the market. This software product would usually be described as a new product, rather than as new technology. But, we can be certain, that this product will have at least one new function (feature), so we can in fact, refer to this function as ‘new technology’.
Your new software is able to monitor social media and evaluate/analyse this data in real time and display it visually. (An idea that was a contender for the 2015 FinTech Award.)
2. What current limitation or barrier does the new technology eliminate or vastly reduce?
The answer to this question leads to a clear definition of a real need that actually exists. Just think of your entire supply chain and describe how the technology removes/reduces any constraints.
Let’s look at another example: China and other Asian countries produce a varied range of products for the entire world, and many European manufacturers have their goods produced there (for economic reasons). We can conclude, that there is the need, to eliminate restricted availability, to shorten long processing times, and to significantly reduce costs. 3-D printer innovation has provided new opportunities for producing products on demand, at a reasonable price, when and where they are required. Functional prostheses are prepared inexpensively in this manner, as well as parts for war planes – to give just two examples. So already, many obstacles have been removed due to 3-D printer technology, with some scientists even talking of a third Industrial Revolution.
3. What policies, norms and behaviour patterns are used today to bypass the limitation?
For this question, it is important to remember that constraints are not recognised as such, as long as the technology does not yet exist.
In December 2014, Microsoft announced its new Skype Translator, with which Skype video chats are translated in real-time. What was once science fiction, is today a reality. 
In the business environment, how do we deal with the limitations of language barriers?
- We expect our employees to have foreign language skills
- We employ translators and interpreters
- We use avoidance strategies (prefer writing to talking, more time to check for accuracy)
- Quality is put to one side and machine translations are used.
Whether this innovation from Microsoft can ensure error-free grammar/sentence structure remains to be seen, however, we know that by questioning behaviour patterns we can achieve insights into the potential of a new technology.
4. What policies, norms and behaviour patterns should be used once the new technology is in place?
In the Microsoft Skype Translator example, there are changing patterns of behaviour e.g. from using a landline or mobile phone to using a headset/computer for telephoning.
By answering this question, you can identify possible negative effects. You are then in a position to eliminate them by making changes. To give an example, think back to the e-book reader, which was actually already in existence in the late nineties. Nevertheless, it was not successfully commercially introduced – there were several different attempts at introduction. The product only achieved a breakthrough in 2007. It was only then, that society was ready to change their norms and patterns of behaviour.
5. In view of the above, what changes/additions to the new technology should be introduced?
After we have investigated the possible obstacles and negative effects, we can then identify ways of resolving them. In our example, Skype had already carried out this work, before it was taken over by Microsoft. The range was then extended, to include handset telephones, and there is no doubt, that with this convenient option, they have won significantly more customers. Sometimes, it is only minor adjustments to the technology, or the environment, that are required to encourage users to change their behaviour.
6. How to cause the change?
Your answers to questions 1-5 should provide you with an overall answer here. Introducing a new feature is never an easy task. There is a natural tendency in people to question new ideas – and that is good. It keeps us from just accepting new ideas immediately. Resistance to change is a great defence mechanism, and allows us to weigh the positive against the negative consequences. The difficulty lies in making a formal evaluation, rather than just discarding or accepting the changes.
Prior to launching your next improvement, consider the six Technology Questions, and you will achieve maximum benefit by being able to see more clearly how to identify and resolve existing limitations and constraints.