What is Technology?
The written definitions of technology found in academic papers are wide and varying. Perhaps this signifies
the complexity of the concept. But a picture is worth a 1000 words!
The Technology Triangle
Consider the diagram in which the three vertices are Science, Economics and Policies.
And now for a fairy tale...
Imagine a fairy tale situation in which a homeowner discovers that his garden wheelbarrow is rusting, and so
approaches a pure scientist to ask for a solution. The scientist uses totally correct scientific principles and
advises the homeowner to gold plate his wheelbarrow! Nobody instructed the scientist to come up with an
economically viable solution. So his purest answer was at the S vertex of the Technology Triangle.
The horrified homeowner asks him to think again, and the scientist proposes a second best, third best option
and so on until they arrive at an economically viable solution - they decide to paint it! This solution is now
represented by a point somewhere in the middle of the triangle where both the S and E balance out.
So where does the P for Policies fit in? This stands for the rules that society imposes,
in other words, P also indicates the People element. The P indicates such issues as safety
regulations, quality standards requirements, health regulations, import/export policies and practices, etc.
Continuing our analogy of the wheelbarrow, it is quite legal to paint a wheelbarrow.
This solution where the point lies somewhere in the middle of the triangle is Technology: So an approximate
definition of Technology in words is that: Technology is Science that makes Money within the bounds of the Law.
Put another way, technology is the economically viable and socially acceptable application of science to the
benefit of the economic process.
So when the S, E and P all exert their magnetic push and pull on a set of possible solutions
to a problem, the final technological answer is one which is Scientifically possible, is within the
Policies and Regulations formulated by People, and which at the end of the day is
Economically viable, makes a Profit for the company, and so adds to the GDP of the nation.
It must also be noted that technology is not only hardware, it is also process. A smarter way of
doing things, a shorter process, a less complex process, these are also all technology improvements leading to
What all of this tells one is that technology, and particularly technology strategy, is a Boardroom issue.
Technology is not something done down in the lower ranks by the guys who wipe their hands on greasy rags. It is
Boardroom strategy. If not, then the speed of change will beat the Boardroom.
Scientific Paper on Technology Triangle