Techposter Syndrome
[tek·post·er sin·drome]
1. The feeling of doubting one’s own competency with or understanding of technology.
2. The fear of having this perceived shortcoming exposed. 

Technology is evolving at an exponential pace. It’s often said that the pace of change is moving faster than it ever has and slower than it ever will again. This rate of change can be really overwhelming for our human brains; and if we let fear guide our thinking, which our brains are pretty well programmed to do, it leads to the increasingly common phenomenon of Techposter Syndrome. 

We’ve all had imposter syndrome…

Imposter syndrome is a psychological pattern in which one doubts one’s accomplishments and value, and has a persistent internalised fear of being exposed as a ‘fraud’. We’ve all felt this from time to time across different dimensions of our life – work, parenting, physical fitness, mental fitness, you name it. 

Techposter Syndrome is simply a flavour of imposter syndrome, focused on our relationship with technology. If we keep three things in mind, we can conquer it.

1) Everybody has it.

Techposter Syndrome is everywhere – but what are the tell-tale signs? At the core of it, what we’re talking about is a mindset characterised by familiar and pervasive thoughts like: 

  • “I’m technically challenged.”
  • “I’m just not very technical.”
  • “I leave the technical stuff to…”
  • “I get it, but everyone here understands this tech better than I do.” (Even the most technically savvy among us suffer from this one.)
  • “I’m too old to understand this.”
  • “I’m too far behind the curve to catch up.”
  • and, of course, the classic: “I don’t fully understand the tech being discussed but I don’t want to ask a stupid question.”

2) It is a mental habit that can be broken.

Techposter Syndrome is a fear-based mental habit. We tell ourselves these stories we’ve created over the years (as above), based on big and small experiences we’ve had, and soon these stories become facts in our minds. 

What’s worse, left unchecked, these stories start to take on so much power that we start to forget or discount all of the other value we bring to the table.  The years of expertise we’ve built up in our functional areas or the business acumen we’ve developed in our industry now becomes overshadowed by the fact that we don’t understand the latest developments in emerging technology.   

So what can you do? How do you break this habit? How do you become more digitally literate and increase your tech acumen? 

We can recommend some very practical steps including: 

  • Editing your media diet to include fun and seemingly frivolous tech news stories.  This keeps general interest piqued. 
  • Planning and frequently revisiting your learning journey to include the top one or two priority topics 
  • Finding trusted friends, colleagues or mentors who you can bounce the silly questions off of  

But none of these tips will work to break your Techposter Syndrome habit until you acknowledge one core truth: 

3) Fear blocks our intellectual capacity

When the fear center in your brain – the amygdala – is activated, it overrides your capacity to learn. And all of the Techposter Syndrome thoughts and stories are 100% fear-based: fear of being exposed; fear of not measuring up in some way. 

Breaking the habit requires crowding out the fear – right out of your brain – by dialing up the curiosity. Only then can real learning, progress and empowerment take place. 

Techposter Syndrome is especially damaging at the leadership level 

Generally speaking, the more senior someone is, the more lengths they will go to in order to keep their Techposter Syndrome hidden and their lack of understanding of tech (however minor) under wraps. We see this all the time: the higher up you go, the higher the fear (and consequence) of exposure. This can be dangerous for two reasons: 

  • That leader is potentially trying to set strategy with incomplete information or understanding of tech. They may even avoid setting strategy due to lack of understanding of a topic. This can obviously have a severely negative impact on the future of a business and its workforce. 
  • Equally importantly, this way of thinking sets the tone and trickles down throughout an organisation when it’s prevalent within a leadership team. A lack of tech confidence, and a reluctance to ask the ‘silly questions’, means that important issues can go unaddressed, which can lead to an organisation which is not focused on learning or growing. 

 So it is especially important for leaders to get real about their own Techposter Syndrome – to address it and to talk about it.

How Emergence helps leaders overcome Techposter Syndrome 

At Emergence Partners, our workshops, coaching and consulting engagements are aimed at the executive level to tackle the exponentially negative impact that Techposter Syndrome can have when it is experienced by leaders.

In our workshops and consulting engagements – whether focused on a specific technology or more often on a broader strategic aim or challenge – we create a space for the kind of transparency and help to get everyone on the same page so that real progress can be made.

Experiencing Techposter Syndrome? Have a browse through the Emergence workshops that can help you conquer it. 

  • Techknowledge sessions
    These are concise, engaging and bespoke tech learning workshops aimed at the executive level with the objective of increasing tech acumen in a specific area. Common examples include AI, Intelligent Automation, Cloud and Blockchain, however we deliver highly customised and function-specific sessions as well.
  • Propel workshop
    In these short and impactful workshops, we empower leaders with an awareness of the mindset which generates technology-driven opportunity in the face of disruption, and use that mindset to uncover specific ideas for driving long-term value creation. 
  • Tech/Strategy coaching
    We provide one-to-one personalised and independent executive coaching focused on how to navigate the tech landscape, understand technologies relevant to your business, and implement them in an impactful way.

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