Go Gently Before We Lose Something

I’ve been chatting to a lot of new founders creating digital collaboration tools – innovation is booming. But there’s a common theme that’s niggling me… and while a part of me knows that a new era of working is here, I’m increasingly conscious of what we stand to lose AND wondering if we’ll ever be able to get it back.

Here are 3 snippets from conversations I’ve had recently – notice what comes up for you as you read them:

  • “We don’t need to see people to connect with them, voice and text are perfect for the majority of interactions at work.”
  • “Often we don’t want to have to get ready for a video call, and why should we when there are other ways to communicate?”
  • “Conversation at dinner felt a bit awkward, it’s like we’d forgotten how to do this a little.”

I agree with some of what is being said, and I feel sad. As we optimise for comfort, efficiency and flexibility – what is the potential cost? And can we predict the long term impact?

Human Connection and Dialogue

I believe human beings have a fundamental need and capacity for connection and community. True dialogue takes time, effort, intention, and respect – it’s not easy. I’m part of an online bookclub that is a space for exactly this – we have books, but they are largely vehicles for dialogue and connection. I don’t think this space would be what it is if we were to optimise for speed or move to text based communication.

William Isaacs sums up my fears when he writes:

“What is lacking? Is it some innate quality of wisdom that only a few of us have? Or is it related as Abba Eban suggested, to the fact that we don’t know how to think or talk together in a way that summons up our own deeply held common sense, wisdom and potential?”

William Isaacs, Dialogue: The Art of Thinking Together

I hope that as we move forward we are mindful of what we optimise for. I hope that the “efficiency trend” is balanced by investments in connection, community and dialogue. I hope that spaces like my bookclub will not become fossils that I remember with nostalgia.

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