Geospatial technology is advancing so quickly that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to keep up. The harder we try, the faster new technology comes along and the sooner we have to adapt again. Is this rapid cycle of transition putting us on a fast track to technology burnout?

Motivational speaker Jody Urquhart says burnout is often “built into the very structure of an organization.” In her article “This Company is Causing Burnout,” she identifies six telltale signs of organizational burnout:

  • Impossible goals
  • Just-plain-stupid policies and procedures that show lack of trust
  • Lack of clarity in roles
  • Pointless meetings
  • Consistent attempts to take the human element out of the work
  • Lack of appreciation and recognition


So how do these same signs of burnout apply to technology?

  1. Impossible goals – Corporate America is pushing the bar higher and higher. “We paid for this high end technology, so your group should be making a higher profit and a higher multiplier.” Sound familiar?
  2. Just-plain-stupid policies and procedures that show lack of trust – High-tech equipment is often sold as an easy-to-use technology that is always correct. However, experienced professionals know that “old school” approaches are still needed to provide checks and balances. With the younger generation accustomed to “black box” technology that does everything at the touch of a button, they might feel untrusted or constrained by procedures that are essential to maintaining quality.
  3. Lack of clarity in roles – Technology is increasingly blurring the traditional roles of the field and office staff. This crossover creates new opportunities for those who adapt, but it can also create tension as individuals try to stake out and “protect” their own areas of expertise. In our firm, we are addressing this challenge through the creation of a technologist role—a four-year graduate from a geospatial program who can take any piece of equipment (tape, total station, GPS, or laser scanner) into the field, collect the data appropriately, process the data in the office, map the data in any platform and then reliably repeat the cycle.
  4. Pointless meetings – With or without technology, this never changes
  5. Consistent attempts to take the human element out of the work – Trying to do more with less is a constant. However, it’s the human element that brings value to the client, not the technology alone.
  6. Lack of appreciation and recognition – Because the general expectation is that everything should be faster and less expensive, we don’t value our time like we should. Consider the story about the TV repairman called to a house because the TV set wasn’t operating. The repairman looked at the TV, went back to his truck and brought in a part. He opened up the back of the TV, removed the bad part and replaced it with the new one. He then replaced the back cover of the TV and turned on the set. It ran beautifully. The repairman looked at the client and said that will be $75. The owner was outraged! The repair only took 5 minutes and the owner felt he was being gouged. He asked the repairman for an explanation. The repairman simply stated, “The tube is $5, and the knowledge of which tube to replace was $70.” This story has several variations, but the point is the same. We need to appreciate and recognize the value that our expertise brings to an application.

Technology provides a significant opportunity to expand our horizons, but watch for the signs of burnout. We need to value our time and efforts so everything we do is meaningful and profitable.