Sunday, June 14, 2009

In response to The importance of being synchronous

My response to The Importance of being synchronous from Onlignment.

It's a great discussion topic and there is already a very thoughtful comment posted.

I will reiterate the focus of the post here just to keep myself on track:

...asynchronous communication is not the focus of this blog, so we’d better find some equivalent arguments to justify communicating in real-time, when we don’t usually have a record of what is said and done, when all participants have to be available at the same time, when communication has to be spontaneous, when the pacing is inflexible and when there is no rewind button. So what are these arguments? Why do we phone rather than text? Why do we talk to someone in person rather than send an email? Why do we hold a discussion using web conferencing rather than using a discussion forum?

Even in this age of technology (deliberately using this flogged-to-death phrase), why do we prefer a f2f meeting? What makes us more comfortable saying something (especially if these are sensitive issues--personal or professional)when we can observe the reaction of the person opposite rather than drop an e-mail and wait anxiously for the response?

Some of my thoughts:

1. No matter how well-crafted and thoughtful an e-mail may be, we can never be 100% sure of the reaction of the recipient (we are dealing with the human mind and emotions). If the issue is a sensitive or critical one, it may also require quick damage control actions/strategies. This is possible in an f2f meeting or even on the phone where the instantaneous reaction of both parties are evident. This gives each side an opportunity to mold the conversation as per context. And also to correct understanding and perception.

2. Sometimes, the opportunity/time to think through everything we are writing can lead to some amount of hypocrisy/hiding of true feelings/putting off saying something because its going to be on records for various reasons. This may be unintentional but does happen. However, the syndrome, "I didn't mean this when I wrote that" arises later putting a spanner in a lot of plans and schedule. While mails are wonderful records of incidents and decisions, they should not be the drivers of decisions.

3. Brainstorming, adding to ideas, just randomly throwing ideas around such that one blends with another, and then thrashing them all out to come up with that gold nugget cannot happen if everyone involved is not in the same room. The vibe and synchronized energy have to be there. We've got to see the glow in another face when a brilliant thought has been floated to feel inspired and invigorated. We have to be able to thump each other on the back and shake hands and show the victory sign and all the other gestures that motivate, move and make us feel a part of a group.

4. It's just the most basic human need to be in physical touch and use all the five senses when communicating. Remember how good we feel when our boss personally comes and tells us we have done a good job compared to an e-mail we see in our inbox. In the latter case, we may even have a niggling doubt as to whether s/he sent or was it the secretary...Thus, trust builds up when we can see each other with all the moles and warts. We see the human side. We might say, "His mails are so curt and to the point; but he's quite a jolly fellow when you speak to him...I was pleasantly surprised."

5. Finally, f2f communication brings out the earnestness in us. It's very difficult to completely hide from people when they are in front of you. If we say what we don't mean, our body language or expression will give us away. Unless of course we are very adept at acting. To build trust and credibility, the importance of being earnest cannot be overlooked...

These are from my experiences...Do you feel the same?

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