I would, yes. There's a LOT that can be done remotely now but so far there is no technology yet that can replicate the "handshake" if you will. it's a soft thing. Maybe i'm wrong, but that's the way I see it right now.
Tim - Humans are hardwired to be social. We are social beings. If you cut someone off from all human contact they actually begin to loose their humanity.
What do you think people get from that handshake?
I think it's a few things. I'm a believer in Maslow's hierarchy of needs, and I see that human interaction as one of the core needs, to your point we are wired that way. There is a feeling of belonging, of community, of acceptance with a group of 4 in person that to me is different than you get in an online community of 10,000. I said different - not necessarily better. Online interaction is valuable and has many benefits, like connecting people that were not previously connected.
And it's not just any interaction either. An example is the family that just had a child. It's easy for parents to get cut off from their friends and their "pre-child" life. Parents can easily feel isolated, alone, and will eventually crave interaction. They have human contact with their child(ren) all day, but that need isn't usually sated until they interact with other adults, usually those in the same situation.
Community, partnership, acceptance, belonging, approval are all things that can come from a handshake. All those can come from an online community as well - but each of those are different vs in-person.
Wasn't the original handshake actually a sign of "I don't have a sword in my hand to kill you with"? It's reassurance. Goodwill. Connection.
Doubtful that digital can provide that. After all, how could a 1-to-many handshake make me feel valued? reassured? confident?
That "handshake" and "body language" will never be replaced by technology. But, technology does allow us to work at our own pace vs. being tied to the time/location of the meeting.
I think we could use technology to create virtual spaces that could replace many face-to-face meetings. If your physical office space had a few 3D cameras and your co-workers had the same equipment, you could pop on your virtual reality glasses (or maybe augmented reality glasses so you could still see the your physical environment) and you and your coworker could then have something closer to a face-to-face.
Maybe it wouldn't work 100% of the time, but I think having virtual reality spaces could replace a lot of face-to-face interactions.
Unfortunately, a virtual handshake or hug just wouldn't be the same. (Maybe we need virtual reality clothing that could make us feel like we are actually shaking hands, etc.)
More of my thoughts on this subject are at:
Brian David Johnson wrote:
What is accomplished face to face that isn't accomplished digitally?
Shared experience -- having a cup of coffee or a beer with someone to develop a deeper relationship that can become valuable over time. In-person interactions allow for pauses in conversation, time for thinking, etc. that don't translate so well when the parties are using phone or video. Not to mention all the non-verbal communication and body language that gets lost.
How many of us would want to be part of a JiveWorld virtual party, each walking out of our own little VR booth when it's over, as opposed to attending a real one in Vegas?
Are there tasks and collaboration that happens digitally that couldn't happen face to face?
I don't know about digital vs. non-digital, but there is certainly a difference between synchronous and asynchronous. Asynchronous communication forms such as threaded discussions are more egalitarian because being text-based, they strip away much of the non-verbal personality traits of the contributors so that ideas presented are more obvious. There is less weight given to tone of voice, status, etc.
Another advantage of discussions over F2F is that you don't have to all be present at the same time to participate. The Jive Community is full of examples of conversations that have gone on for years. So the conversation persists and exists as a separate entity, even as participants come and go.
Finally, F2F meetings can be subject to what in academic jargon is known as production blocking, where some people tend to dominate the conversation because there can only be one person talking at a time. In a threaded discussion, everyone can communicate at the same time and there's no limit to the amount they can contribute.
But I still want to go to Vegas.
Having just completed a mostly online class at Northwestern, I'd like to echo Dennis's comments about asynchronous versus synchronous. For our team project, we did have a couple people who tended to dominate conversation. asynchronous would have helped that. And from that perspective, since we had to use Google Docs to accommodate one of the participants, I can say that inline comments don't facilitate conversation in the same way as a threaded conversation does. I think in a digital world, we are still finding our way in terms of workstyle and tools.
Another thing that can be facilitated better asynchronously is strong feelings. If you've ever been really upset or angry about something and written a letter to someone instead of confronting them directly, you understand this. When writing, you aren't having to face the other person and deal in the moment with all of your strong feelings. You can take time to make sure you convey your feelings in a way that the other person will "hear" and understand, and hopefully listen to with compassion instead of becoming defensive. Synchronously, that can be really hard to do effectively and both people need to be trying hard not to let emotions control the conversation.
Great question Brian.
I'd preface my answer by saying it simply depends upon the purpose and nature of the meeting. But, if the intent is anything other than purely transactional, I'm voting for face-to-face, on a ten year horizon anyway.
There's no doubt technology will advance much further, so interactions and communication will feel easier. But big unknown to me is the neurology? I'm a gen-xer that is about to breach the half-century! Based upon my life experience I know that the emotional resonance and, the transformational impacts which can occur in face-to-face dialogue are much less achievable in the digital space.
But will brain development and patterning in future generations mean that is no longer the case?
That aside, I start from a perspective gained through an explicit focus on the transformational nature of communications within the context of organisational effectiveness. Dialogue versus download, logical versus emotional, and physical versus digital. Based upon that, I would say that if authentic engagement or transformation is important, then recognise that physical will has a lot more potential than digitally.
Our core expertise (ON-Brand Partners) relates to developing culture to enable strategy. And 'shaping conversations' across the organisation is at the heart of how we do that.. Typically organisations are partnering with us to support them through transformation, strategic change, or innovation. The short-hand version is that we implement a conversation system - usually a programme of group events to start with, plus team-based routines and practices. The conversation routines act as backbone for leadership to deploy change of shift the focus of the organisation. They can shape a conversation through out the organisation on 'what matters most'.
The design principles are important: dialogue; narrative; appreciative, and; from insight, immediate ideation. That creates a very different dynamic - one that shapes and sustains certain attributes of the culture that you want to enable strategy - customer centricity, collaboration, connection with purpose, confidence, change agility, and curiosity.
To be clear, we are massive advocates of digital collaboration. In fact, our own Jive instance has transformed the way we deliver our services. (FYI - if anyone is interested, I'm presenting on this, Tuesday afternoon, Conversations for good - Building better partnerships)
So, in answer to another of the questions you've posed, Jive ensures that the knowledge surfaces through the face-to-face team conversations, (stories, insights, ideas) is captured, shared and leveraged elsewhere. In our pre-Jive era, we could only achieve a fraction of that value - we process demanded effort, it was slow, and it remained static.
From a slightly different perspective, the ON2net (the name of of Jive instance) has changed the nature of our meetings with decision-makers and influencers. A lot of our value we can offer is in making sense of the change (Culture is complex, causal relationships are not clear, entirely predictable nor stable). While we are on the outside of client organisations, the ON2net provides an open window to look through. We can see the narrative unfold, we can feel the shifts in momentum, and we can identify the barriers and issues that need addressing. It means we can provide much better advise to decision-makers and influencers.
Something else it enables is scale. We can be part of the conversation across hundreds of leaders. We can guide, encourage and add perspectives. It means we are part of the system, and treated as genuine, trusted partners.
Finally, the 'scoop on top'! We can now enable leaders from different organisations to learn from each other. Each organisation is unique, but their challenges are mostly similar. And because they are all applying the same ON-Brand principles, practices and tools to those challenges, they connect more naturally.
So, stand back from all of that, and rather than look at the questions you've posed through the lens of a meeting, but rather the ever evolving conversation, for us it's clearly not a question of 'physical versus digital', but rather the 'physical and digital' and critically the fusion between them.
Today, both are important. My guess is that will still be be case in 10 years. Technology and neurology? How much shift by then? One thing is for sure, the fusion between physical and digital will certainly have evolved. Let's just hope their is a real quality to our communication and connection.
Thanks for the great thought provoker! My colleagues (leannekennedy and Leah Fisher) and I are really excited to see you, live in action, next week.
Thanks for the question - it seems very timely. I've been reading a few things about meetings (both real and virtual) over the past few days:
and it makes me wonder whether before we ask the question about in-person or online, we should maybe have a rethink about the kinds of work that we do in meetings - and much like the flipped classroom is reshaping the way folks think about educational activities, perhaps we'd be better off considering what of the context sharing, scheduling and coordinating work can be done individually, and then bringing people together to actually do the heavy lifting when there are problems to be solved (and not just talk about it). Putting the 'work' back into workshops, perhaps?
I certainly hope so. We're people, not machine. (some) People actually like to see other people live. ex: JiveWorld vs. webinars for each of those sessions. Which would you rather?
Yes, we'll have face-to-face meetings. But...there will become a blurry aspect to that. H2H interactions are still required, as we're all people, not machines. There will be interfaces where it might seem that the other person is really in front of you, but they may be virtual.
I think this is where VR and AR can become really compelling. Yes, killing dragons in space might be great in VR, but the possibilities for human interaction may be augmented via technology. We're beginning to see concept testing of this in film right now like environments of conferencing in Captain America:Winter Soldier. People would sit in 3-dimensional loveliness yet entirely remote. Extrapolate that forward and we may get to the point that projectors could have those people interacting in conferences alongside "actuals".
Even today's technologies like webinars are getting more compelling. What we haven't seen yet is true retina-display clarity of our conversationalists. That's a tech problem, but not insurmountable. When webex can allow me to have a conversation with someone without having to look in the camera but actually at the person then I think we'll be in business.
Personally, I would hate to see a world where we're all plugged in. I've had far better interactions -- with Alan Lepofsky -- that couldn't be achieved in the digital realm. I've met far too many awesome people in the analog.
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I get such a kick at thinking back to the work we did at IBM in Second Life. Oh the marketing BS I preached about changing the way people would work, shop, play, etc!