The streaming world has slowly crept up on us. We embraced the past two decades of an unprecedented rate of connecting, with an almost hyper fervour. Great products such as smart phones, Wi-Fi technology, apps and assistive intelligence have made things easier in so many ways. In the meantime we have regressed to Humans 2.0.
We simply can’t hold our attention as we used to. There are now even special treatments on offer for those who are struggling; struggling to be old humans. While connectedness has made collaboration easier, the loss of an ability to hold one’s attention for extended periods of time is creating a new challenge. Or so it seems to me at least. I note, sadly very often, that people have been sold on an idea that everything can be done at elevator pitch; meaning that every business concept, proposal, solution etc., can be summed up in neat sushi-style bites. Never been a fan. I do, however, value the importance of making things simpler. Making things short and sweet – yes. Making ideas sound great when explained in simple terms – yes. But, let’s face it, life is not simple. Revolting against it by pretending that simple summations will capture the wisdom is deceptive.
Solving life’s problems is the very essence of business and economic life. History teaches us that the best business is never possible unless it is based on solving life’s challenges. Ongoing challenges, both emerging as well as those that have been around ever since we appeared on the blue marble, are proof that the struggle continues. Crime and violence are still part of our human experience; as are the hunger and lack of clean air and water for too many. The grand challenges are potentially the biggest source of business solutions. While the vast majority of the contemporary workforce are not overly preoccupied with the idea of a grand challenge as they are on completing their daily tasks, the simple fact remains; connection to things that are bigger then ourselves is critical in the long run.
The real challenge for any manager, business leader and pretty much any professional concerned with the future relevance of their skills and experience, is how to deal with what some have called the ‘streaming world’. The idea being that we are plugged into some kind of digital stream almost at all times; listening to music, reading e-books, updating our social media status, emailing – the never-ending list goes on. That is not neither good nor bad per se. But it is definitely tough on anyone who wants to collaborate.
Real collaboration, the kind that gets the best kind of engagement from people, is dependent on our ability to first and foremost understand each other. That, I’m afraid, is little more complicated than most of us are willing to admit. Despite a scientific verdict stating that there is no such thing as multi-tasking, the majority of us are fanatically devoted to the belief that we are. The science is clear; we only manage to hop between tasks, we never really process two or more things at the same time. When we think we do, then we cheat ourselves. And our collaborating partners.
We are perhaps seeing the limits of what good collaboration can do. All the tools in the world can’t compensate for the basic fault of missing the point: collaboration is about deep engagement with colleagues, allowing time to understand each other and grasping the depth of any thought or idea that anyone has to offer before creative, innovative and genuinely productive results can emerge.