So many technologies allow us to collaborate “virtually” today. Email, instant messaging, video conferencing, and desktop sharing are common parts of the workday for many people. But regardless of what technologies we use, all of our interactions still rely on a basic element: each other. No matter how many great and easy to use tools we have, we cannot forge ahead and progress without other people.
So the question is “do we need to get back to intimacy?”
We have always learned that people are more engaged when they can interact the way humans have done for thousands of years: face to face. When personal meetings are not possible, there is a tendency to embrace technology.
There are four key points for successful collaboration, and they all rely on human behavior.
· Build relationships and networks that lead to trust
· Turn human interactions into results
· Balance decision-making and consensus building
· Evolve the culture for productive collaboration
People collaborate to innovate in businesses. This type of collaboration focuses on developing creative solutions or ideas that improve an existing process or product. Through ongoing collaboration, socialisation, and vetting, the idea develops into a viable solution to discuss a new market opportunity, re-engineer a core process, solve a problem, or create business value. Technology can be used as the accelerator for change, transformation, and improvement.
Harvard University has studied this subject for years. They state that the human moment has two prerequisites: people’s physical presence and their emotional and intellectual attention. That’s it. Physical presence alone isn’t enough. You can ride shoulder-to-shoulder with someone for six hours in an airplane and not have a human moment during the entire ride. And attention alone isn’t enough either. You can pay attention to someone over the telephone, for instance, but somehow phone conversations lack the power of true human moments.
Human moments need energy. Often, that’s what makes them so easy to avoid. The human moment may be seen as yet another tax on our overextended lives. But a human moment doesn’t have to be emotionally draining or personally revealing. In fact, the human moment can be brisk, business like, and brief. A five-minute conversation can be a perfectly meaningful human moment. To make the human moment work, you have to set aside what you’re doing, put down the memo you were reading, disengage from your laptop, abandon your daydream, and focus on the person you’re with. Usually when you do that, the other person will feel the energy and respond in kind. Together, you quickly create a force field of exceptional power.
The positive effects of a human moment can last long after the people involved have said goodbye and walked away. People begin to think in new and creative ways; mental activity is stimulated. But like exercise, which also has enduring effects, the benefits of a human moment do not last indefinitely. A ten-mile run on Monday is wonderful—but only if you also swim on Wednesday and play tennis on Saturday. In other words, you must engage in human moments on a regular basis for them to have a meaningful impact on your life. For most people, that’s not a tall order.
I am concerned, however, that human moments are disappearing and that this trend will be accompanied by worrisome and widespread consequences. I say this not as an executive who has seen and lived through the many technological challenges of the last 20 years. As discussed in my earlier post ‘Is human to human communication dying?’ I can tell you without a doubt that almost everyone on the planet is experiencing some deficiency of human contact. The power of Face to Face contact in a relationship need not die however it should be lived and exercised as an important medium across effective technology if we are to accelerate business progress, relationships, and indeed trust.
What does your organisation define as valuable points for successful collaboration? Does it encourage human relationships?