Why face-to-face connection matters in a world of disruption

Published by on May 23, 2016 12:00 am
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Navigating change through meaningful interactions

Face-to-face events have been around forever. Before technology and the Internet created alternatives, people learned, engaged, found love, and solved problems together, face-to-face.

Today change, in all of its forms, is all around us. Technology, data, and globalization are conspiring to bring the world closer while, in many respects, distancing us from ourselves.

So how do we navigate change in the world of events? It isn’t easy. There is no recommendation to add to your event organizer checklist, budget for, and complete. Change is not about the smartphone, sensors, hardware, software, or data.

Let’s think bigger. Change, with all its breadth, depth, and speed, hits us on biological levels, impacting the way we think, learn, and behave. Even bigger still, change is reshaping us on a metaphysical level, transforming who we are now into what we will become.

Without the right mindset, we’re often dragged into the future against our wills. Why? Because we are jaded by failure, and we are “realists” about the limits of our own organizational bureaucracy to embrace change and execute. We are reluctantly content with the safer status quo.

But imagine if we accepted the fact that the status quo is no longer sustainable. What if we saw change as the opening to greater possibilities? What if change, in all of its iterations, was a path to unleashing the best of who we are and what we could become?

That’s what we’re talking about here, a tectonic mental shift that changes our perspective. It’s about creating trust, where all parts of the mind are aligned and pointed in the same direction. When we build trust together, we find the courage to relinquish individual control. And in the space that opens, new possibilities are free to emerge.

So where do we start? What’s the right lens through which we can view change and the world of face-to-face engagement? It’s all about the three ‘Cs’: connection, context, and collaborative creation. First, let’s focus on the importance of real, meaningful connection.

Connection must be more than just digital

The Internet of Things paints an inevitable future where physical objects are connected and capable of sharing information, a form of collaborative intelligence. This technological connectivity in the physical world mirrors the inherent connectivity evidenced in the natural world, what we’ll call the ecosystem view.

Thanks to things like Facebook, Twitter, and email, we have unprecedented levels of connectivity and access. We arrive at events as learned people, with our own perspective and knowledge. In 30 years, we’ve flipped the pyramid of information and influence.

But the results are mixed. We are inundated by messages, drowning in information, and the advances that have made borders and distance nearly obsolete are hurting us as much as they are helping. The more connected we are, the more disconnected we become. Behind the walls of Facebook we are “lonely together”: isolated, depressed, and devoid of memorable, meaningful connection.

Hyperbole? Perhaps a bit. But check the annual sales of anti-depressants like Zoloft and Prozac—they’re telling. And for all that we are the most advanced nation on earth, the U.S. has the highest rates of incarceration and the highest suicide rates in the world.

The bottom line is that technology and data can’t fully feed our need to connect. We need powerful, relevant face-to-face events more now than ever before. Information access, ubiquitous data, and always-on global connectivity can be a good thing if, out of the noise, we can create context and discover meaning.

Check back tomorrow for the next installment in this blog series, about how context lends connections the necessary insight and meaning to grow awareness and help foster real, collaborative action.

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