Back to Basics

I am old enough that when I went to school, our school supplies included purely analog tools: pens, pencils, notebooks, etc.

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If I wanted to connect with friends, we did so by talking face to face, ran around at recess, and passed notes.  We interacted directly with one another.  

Seemingly overnight, but in truth slowly over the past couple decades, technology has become pervasive in our personal and professional lives.

Most everyone has a "smart" phone.  Having home Internet access is an expected monthly utility cost.  Businesses allow and encourage telecommuting rather than physically coming into the office.  People now meet potential spouses via a computer before ever meeting in person.

It is becoming more difficult to find places where we cannot digitally communicate with others, than where we can. 

Technology is great.  I'm a technology geek.  But it is a tool, like a hammer, that can be used to build or to hurt.

Digital connectedness is not a substitute for physically interacting with others - especially when innovating.  

I recently had the opportunity to work with a team where we pushed the technology aside.  They went old school.  No phones.  No computers.  No emails.  No video calls.  No sharing digital documents for markup by the group.  Everyone physically was in the same room.

The team interacted in person.  They discussed issues honestly - and not endlessly.  They mapped out and mixed around different business strategies on oversized foam boards - and everyone was enabled to pick up a marker and index card to help add to the boards.  They did "back of the envelope math models" for different strategies.  

It was just a group of enabled, willing, and able people who wanted to propel their organization's innovation pipeline.

Cliché, but walls came down.  People could better communicate and collaborate because they could understand one another's tone.  They could see one another's body language, and react properly.  They could discuss matters real-time with one another without distractions.  They could each pick up the pen and paper and have a sense of being heard as strategies were mapped and altered.  

And the outcome was several months worth of work done in a couple of days.  

And now technology, as a tool, can be used to clearly communicate the work to be done to the greater organization, track its progress, and be used to build the innovation pipeline.  

Maybe we should all occasionally consider going old school, take down that proverbial technology wall, and interact and see how much further we move forward.