As the pace of technology in the modern era appears only set to increase, it’s vital that we look at how technology will affect not just the infrastructures of our businesses, but how people actually interact.
One of the things that is most important about introducing technology into the workplace–for example, the ability to work remotely or to better measure sales and marketing, profits and loss, advance the speed of team communication, etc.–is that it leverages our ability to communicate.
That is, with an increased speed of communication or an increased ability to communicate among groups of several different languages and cultures, it is vitally important that people learn to communicate more effectively.
The feedback loop between people and technology becomes more reinforced more quickly with the ease and speed of communication. To some degree, the methods of communication, whether that be Skype, Slack, or even boring old e-mail, introduce certain concerns that we never had before.
Good communication is crucial even when working with people of different attitudes and expectations within the local office. However, in these cases there is at least the undercurrent of physical space, voice tone, body language and other more subtle or holistic forms of communication. It’s often easier to deal with a difficult situation if one sees a person regularly because it’s necessary.
This is of course only amplified in a remote work situation, which requires excellent written and spoken communication skills not just to communicate the parameters of the work itself but also to avoid any problems in the first place–and particularly to mitigate them should they arise.
There’s a lot of blend in these two situations, however, as working from home becomes more common and people are expected to have constant access to e-mail or Slack.
It’s said that “people are a mirror of technology,” but that’s really giving technology short shrift. The technology helps people, but it has inherent limitations. It can–and obviously has–revolutionize the ways that we work, play, and even think.
However, it is imperative for us, as intelligent and considered users of technology, to look at the limitations of the technology: in other words, what subtler things about the situation are we losing because the bandwidth of a Slack chat or e-mail cannot communicate in the ways that we take for granted IRL?
It’s not the technology’s fault that it doesn’t have these features, and there’s no reason that it “should” have them. It’s up to us to know what technology can and can’t do and to work around it to communicate as effectively as we can to get the job done.
The positive aspects of technology are undeniable, but a vivid awareness of what it doesn’t provide in the human sense will only help people communicate more effectively. Look at it this way: it’s possible to be ineffective, rude, or even cruel in cyberspace without meaning to, but only from a lack of understanding that is squarely our fault.