How many of you listen to music with your headphones at work? Use the internal phone line to call a co-worker that is less than 20 yards away? Participate in meetings where you are talking, checking mails, and plan dinner all at the same time? Thanks to new technology we are able to do more, faster. However, how has this affected the way we interact with one another? After all, people make up our organizations. Are we paying attention to the changing nature of our interactions? We are constantly connected, but do we communicate? In the following we challenge you to reconsider how technology is effecting communication and relationships, and give practical advice on how to incorporate new strategies to keep the conversation going in the office.
“We live in a technological universe in which we are always communicating. And yet we have sacrificed conversation for mere connection.”
According to World Business Forum New York 2012 speaker Sherry Turkle, although we are living in a world where technology enables constant communication, the nature of that communication is somehow less substantial than before. Although this position may seem paradoxical for an MIT professor, Turkle doesn’t argue against technology but instead is concerned about how communicating through a screen is affecting the delicate nature of relationships.
In a recent article in the New York Times, Turkle elaborates on her research, explaining that communication is an issue within the office.
“In today’s workplace, young people who have grown up fearing conversation show up on the job wearing earphones. Walking through a college library or the campus of a high-tech start-up, one sees the same thing: we are together, but each of us is in our own bubble, furiously connected to keyboards and tiny touch screens.”
So, why is this important for your company? Because although as professionals we shy away from the notion of “personal” (for more on that in terms of social media, check out a recent blog), work doesn’t happen if we don’t respect and trust our co-workers.
Here are some ideas on how to leverage technology within the office to foster communication, and not forget the importance of human interaction:
Use Technology Selectively:
Many companies are investing in internal social media networks to spur ideas and innovation as well as build relationships. For example, Scott Cook, Co-Founder of Intuit, described at this year’s World Innovation Forum New York how two new, young employees built their own social network for the company and greatly effected innovation as a result.
Susan Cain, author of 2012’s bestseller Quiet, suggests that technology can actually be a positive way to brainstorm electronically. Cain argues that brainstorming naturally leads to what she calls Group Think. However, she argues that technology is one positive way teams can overcome Groupthink and work together effectively. “Groups brainstorming electronically, when properly managed, not only do better than individuals, research shows; the larger the group, the better it performs,” she explains in the book.
Be More Conscious of Individual Employees:
If there is one thing we come to understand in an office setting it’s that we are all different. We have different ways of working, thinking, developing, and even interacting. Be aware of diversity, whether by age groups or personality. Tamara Erickson, organizational expert, points out in an exclusive WOBI video that different generations have different perspectives, tactics and reactions. As a leader, are you aware of them?