Collaboration and trust through human interaction

Image of five people looking at business-plan and brainstormingI have been engaged in several discussions recently discussing the topic of human to human interaction in relationships and in the workplace.

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 contact reacting energyHuman 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?

2 Replies to “Collaboration and trust through human interaction”

  1. Colin, many thanks for your comments. Collaboration is not easy, but it is well worth the effort. People in today’s world seem to disengage and hide behind the ambiguity. To interact is to collaborate and build trust and relationships which has far greater value, my view is only when intimacy is created that technology, culture and process can play its real part in accelerating the relationship, even with technology, I am in great belief that face-to-face and interaction should be maintained. The end goal is an integrated and natural collaboration experience for relationships.​

  2. Geoff, really enjoyed this post and agree with all that you have shared. I particularly like the connection to being active, just trying to run any distance well without any training. I also take your point about this way of connecting seems to be \’dying\’ out and for me that is a worry. We can hide behind our screens and create the persona that we believe the recipient wishes to see. How far away from the real person will we end up being. Certainly food for thought. Colin

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