I’ve been reading a fair deal lately about the technological savvy – or lack thereof – of the candidates vying for the Republican and Democractic slots in the upcoming president elections. On the one hand, there are kudos being thrown around for the smart websites and blogs of many of the candidates – with some like Ron Paul and Barrack Obama being singled out for astute use of these tools to generate buzz and raise money. But I’ve also read/heard some criticisms about the stunning lack of personal awareness (let alone understanding) of emerging technology by some of these same candidates. (There was an excellent editorial in the Washington Post, but can’t link as it’s subscription-only access.) Apparently some of these folks – notably John McCain and Mitt Romney – are unfamiliar with the basic mechanics and tools of the Web 2.0 environment – including MySpace. Some of this is blamed on the generation gap – after all most of these folks are well past their teen years – but whatever the reason this is cause for concern: it’s not a good scenario when the leadership of the country is woefully out of sync with developments related to the internet and evolving communication patterns.
These politicians can likely bluff their way by and hire specialists and consultants to brief them and point them in the right direction. What worries me even more is the stubborn gap in the communications field, where I still run into senior practitioners who zealously avoid computers or are years behind in terms of tracking developments on the Web. These are the people who are paid to counsel organizations on how to communicate and market effectively, so their knowledge gaps raise serious quality and credibility problems. Age can forgive some of this lag, but not all of it. Insularity, institutional inertia and the rapid pace of change are other potential reasons. Either way, there is no excuse: no serious communications expert can be out of touch with major Web trends and innovations. This is where that old HR chestnut lifelong learning becomes a reality.