Everything’s Different

I’m sure you pay attention to one sort of social stream or another.  Maybe it’s a Facebook news feed; maybe a list of friends or business contacts on Twitter.  I do, and what’s interesting to me is that often the age differences between some of the folks I follow come to the fore in a not very subtile way.  This happened the other day when the internet service went out in someone’s building and they wailed about not being able to get anything done.  I’m paraphrasing here but there was a shout out to us oldsters asking “how the hell did you get anything done without technology.”  Damn good question – thanks for asking.

At the risk of seeming ancient, I’ll say up front that business hasn’t changed very much in the almost 35 years I’ve been in it since college.  Oh sure – THE business (pick one – media, sports, banking, whatever) has changed dramatically but BUSINESS hasn’t.  The tools have too, and I think that’s what my young friend was decrying the other day.  So let me briefly post a couple of reminders.

Business is first and foremost about people and relationships.  Your customers, your prospects, your team.  How you find them, work with them, and add value.  Those things have nothing to do with a particular set of technological tools and everything to do with interpersonal skills.

Next, business is about how well you listen.  The technological tools have made that easier when you’re trying to listen to a market but they have no effect on your ability to pay attention to face-to-face conversations (even if they’re over the telephone) other than to facilitate note taking.  Granted, there are many other places in which to carry on conversations, and it’s much easier to carry on several at once , but is that always wise?

Let me talk for a second about how things ARE different.  I used to dictate letters to an assistant who would type them up (my handwriting made typing from my scribbling very difficult).  I’d correct them or make changes, and they’d go in the mail.  It could take at least 15 – 30 minutes from the start of the process until we sent out the note and 24 hours or more until that note was received.  Today, I’d type the note, read over what I’d typed, and email it.  Time to delivery from process start to finish:  maybe 5 minutes.  Way more efficient, right?  Of course – if all we’re thinking about is time.  The technology has changed that a lot.  It’s also changed a few other aspects that might benefit from a more old-school approach.  Reliance on spell-checkers to do the proofing (next time you see “your” instead of “you’re” or any other homonym misused) instead of careful reading is an example.  Because I knew a typo meant a complete retyping, I proofed very carefully the first time to find everything so there wouldn’t be a third or fourth retyping.  It was the same thinking with respect to content – changes meant retyping entire documents so you took your time and formulated your ideas and words more carefully.   Finally, you didn’t send off notes in fits of pique – the time was a natural barrier to doing anything too stupid.  There wasn’t a rush to get things out the door since the mail only got picked up a couple of times a day.

So to my young friend – we got a lot done without the internet or email.  It took longer, it might not have been as efficient.  Our relationships might not have been as numerous but they were probably deeper.  We did actually have a meal with clients or families without interruptions from email, texts, check-ins, or the dreaded phone call that says “I sent you an email 20 minutes ago and you didn’t respond so I texted you but you didn’t answer so I’m calling” which is usually about something that could wait were it not for the mass ADD this technology has induced.  You’d have been very surprised, actually, how much we got done and how much more relaxed everyone seemed to be.

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Filed under Consulting, digital media, Reality checks

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