Saturday, March 18, 2006

The Wonders of Modern Telecommunications?

One of the e-newsletters I follow is The Herman Alert. It is published by Roger Herman and Joyce Gioia, and frequently has some interesting insights.

One of the more recent posts was titled Ubiquitous Cell Phones Blocking Relationships. Without going into great detail, the essence of the article was that the use of cell phones (and by implication other electronic communications) has gotten to the point where is was replacing personal relationships and in general going a long way to making the world far more impersonal not to mention impolite.

While people talking on cell phones in restaurants, on trains, and in other places where it really is pretty hard not to be annoyed by both the ringing and the conversations is certainly not anything I would endorse, I thought that this particular piece went a bit overboard in terms of sounding the death knell of modern society.

For example, one of the major complaints of the article was that we have people who work within a few yards of each other who communicate via email rather than getting from their desk and going to talk to someone in person.

On the surface I guess that may seem a bit odd, but frankly, it didn't strike me as that crazy. Maybe that's because we do so much of it here, but in doing so, and as I look around (and yes, even walk around) our office on a daily basis, I don't sense that the use of the technology is causing us to lose the personal relationships that we all value and feel are important.

Just because the technology is there doesn't mean that organizations can't do things to ensure that people stay connected on a personal level as well as an electronic one. In fact, I even believe that the electronic tools can help ensure that organizations "stay connected" and that the "connection" is even more personal, not less.

As an example, in our company, we have an email newsletter that goes to everyone in the company every working day. We use it to not just communicate "what's happening" that day on a business level, but often the "Buzz" as we call it, reports on personal achievements as well as contributions to the business. We have fun with it, and it is the technology that makes it possible.

In short, my feeling is that technology is an enabler of communication, both personal and professional, and not a replacement for personal relationships be they personal or professional.

The last time I looked, we manage the systems, the systems don't manage us. Bad manners are one thing, but organizations don't fail because of bad manners or technology that is "abused". They fail because they are not managed well. If things are too impersonal to the point where people don't care, it's because management doesn't care enough not because some jerk wants to show off his latest Bluetooth gadget.

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