In today's wired world, I think it's intriguing to consider an insight from Steve Jobs. Interestingly enough, Walter Isaacson notes in his Harvard Business Review article, “The Real Leadership Lessons of Steve Jobs” (April 2012), that Jobs was a firm believer in face-to-face communication. It's an interesting insight from one of the world's most technologically creative geniuses.
Isaacson quotes Jobs saying, "There's a temptation in our networked age to think that ideas can be developed by e-mail and iChat. That's crazy. Creativity comes from spontaneous meetings, from random discussions. You run into someone, you ask what they're doing, you say 'Wow,' and soon you're cooking up all sorts of ideas.”
I just came from an organization that is crazy-busy. Because of the insane pace, they pride themselves on using technology to the hilt--email, chat rooms, instant messaging, etc. The effectiveness (or not) of email, chat rooms, etc., as a form of workplace communication is a study in and of itself. What this executive team is discovering, however, is the number of miscommunications and misunderstandings that are occurring. But they shared with me that they can't figure out why.
Indeed, the best way to understand your organization's corporate brain trust is to pull your executive team together into a room for two days of Annual Planning (or Quarterly Planning, depending on the time of year) and have them hash through the give-and-take of identifying what's most important for the organization to focus on and then entertain how you plan to accomplish what you've identified as your Winning Moves. Having Quarterly and/or Annual facilitated planning sessions will readily provide insights into your company's preferred future and clarify how you, collectively, hope to get there…and you'll have a great face-to-face conversation in the process.
Fireside chat, anyone?