The Novelty Of The Actual
Are we currently seeing an increase in the value and attractiveness of work experiences that are not digital and screen-based? Are the competencies related to live communication becoming more and more prized because the population of those who excel in them is, perhaps, declining? Will the next generation of leaders, already skilled in virtual communication, need to be trained in the fundamentals of actuality?
The other day at dinner, as our family was discussing plans for the weekend, my 11 year-old son weighed the option of spending Saturday night at home seeing a movie versus going out to a live piece of theatre. His conclusion was that while a movie had the advantage of being admittedly “totally absorbing,” live theatre got extra points because “when you look at actors on the stage they are really there.”
It was a curious irony that he should cite the example of an actor in a play, whose function is fundamentally to represent something else, as being exemplary of actuality. What struck me most, however, was that for an 11-year old in today’s world, there is a certain novelty (and therefore attractiveness) about the opportunity to engage in an experience that is not virtual.
Over the course of the last 10 years, I have experienced a similar issue with the gradual encroachment of cell phone connectivity to areas where I had previously been blissfully free of it. Our little family cottage in the Quebec countryside had always boasted “remoteness” as a key feature, until a few years ago when we had the choice of selecting a mobile carrier with a tower in the vicinity, allowing connectivity to our cottage.
“Why not?” we thought, thinking of issues of safety, etc. Since then, however, all carriers now have towers, and, with the advent of smarter and smarter phones, I face a very different cottage experience—one in which business calls, web connection, Skype conversations and streaming video must compete with experiences such as jumping in the lake, going for a walk to pick berries or sitting lazily on the porch having a chat with someone else who is actually on the porch beside me.
In short, the novelty of the actual has increased because of the ubiquity of the virtual.
It got me thinking about whether this principle is also true for those of us who spend the majority of our workdays on the phone and computer. Are we currently seeing an increase in the value and attractiveness of work experiences that are not digital and screen-based? Are the competencies related to live communication becoming more and more prized because the population of those who excel in them is, perhaps, declining? Will the next generation of leaders, already skilled in virtual communication, need to be trained in the fundamentals of actuality?
At the Ariel Group, we train leaders in the dynamics of leadership presence, defined as “the ability to connect to the hearts and minds of others.” As we consider the future of business communication, we may all be wise to consider the example of our children, who represent the next generation of workers and leaders. My young son already considers the computer to be almost second-nature—a place where he confidently boasts proficiency; a place where all knowledge resides; a place where all people can be contacted.
An enticing question is raised, to which we perhaps do not yet know the answer: can the leaders of tomorrow’s organizations truly connect to the “hearts and minds” of their colleagues and customers without leaving the safe confines of the digital world? And if not, what do they need to know that they can’t already learn on Wikipedia?