Summer is over. ‘Back to work. Back to blogging!’ Those were the first few words that came to my mind earlier on today, after having returned, over the weekend, from a short holiday break in Barcelona, Spain. It is still one of my all time favourite cities in the world and for a good number of reasons that I may be able to explain over the course of time, but this time around it taught me something that I guess I have been taking it for granted for the last two decades and that’s to never underestimate our innate ability to network through conversation, whether at work or in our personal lives. At all times. After all, we are social, human beings, and, whether we like it or not, we are destined to become the masters of networking through conversation.
I knew I wanted to take a good holiday break away from what seems to have been one of the weirdest years I can remember in terms of work streams, so over the course of last few weeks I have been secretly planning to spend a few days completely disconnected from the world, pick up a favourite city of mine (Barcelona, in this case), turn it into a culinary trip of some sort and enjoy the ride as much as I possibly could being completely disconnected from everything and everyone. I decided, on purpose, to keep a low profile about it all and don’t mention a single thing on the various media tools where I usually hang out. I just went quiet for a while without sharing anything out there, not even here in this blog. I suppose I just wanted to be away from it all for a short while to remind me what it felt like. And, of course, I failed.
I failed because serendipity kept insisting on doing its own wonderful magic day in day out. I pretty much failed not necessarily from having shared different tidbits online in some of those media tools, which I haven’t, but because I just couldn’t be away from what still remains one of my favourite activities, whether work related or not, which is networking. Even if for the sake of just doing it: that is, learning from other people through conversations while networking away. It was just fantastic! Literally.
That’s why, while catching up with my digital feeds, I was a bit surprised about bumping into this article by Joe Myers under the rather thought provoking title ‘How to overcome your aversion to networking’. My goodness! Where did we go wrong? What happened? Have we forgotten how we are wired to learn through conversation(s)? Or how the future operating system for humanity is conversation? When did we decide to have meetings vs. conversations? Ouch!
Joe’s article is a pretty good read, indeed, with tons of savvy advice and great pointers to other interesting articles around the whole notion of exploring the many benefits of networking through conversation, but I suspect we may need to go way deeper on this one. We may eventually need to remind ourselves what makes us unique in this world, whether at work or in our personal lives, and it’s not necessarily the unprecedented opportunity to use technology to connect with other people, a la world of zero distance, but more to remind us all we ought to remain human through the conversations we facilitate, as our main opportunity to thrive on in that everlasting journey of lifelong learning.
Leandro Herrero calls it ‘Reclaiming Conversations in an Alone Together world’, but I think my favourite quote on the topic of conversation(s) and being human would still be the one from David Weinberger from the Cluetrain Manifesto (again!):
‘To have a conversation, you have to be comfortable being human – acknowledging you don’t have all the answers, being eager to learn from someone else and to build new ideas together.
You can only have a conversation if you’re not afraid of being wrong. Otherwise, you’re not conversing, you’re just declaiming, speechifying, or reading what’s on the PowerPoints. To converse, you have to be willing to be wrong in front of another person.
Conversations occur between equals. The time your boss’s boss asked you at a meeting about your project’s deadline was not a conversation. The time you sat with your boss for an hour in the Polynesian-themed bar while on a business trip and you really talked, got past the corporate bullshit, told each other the truth about the dangers ahead, and ended up talking about your kids – that maybe was a conversation’.
There is a lot we can all, collectively, do to design for effective conversations, but then again we can just let serendipity do its magic, open up, be prepared, expose our very own different vulnerabilities, acknowledge we don’t know it all, become comfortable with the uncomfortable (i.e. not knowing where to next) and let the conversations shine through that honesty and authenticity we seem to have left behind somehow pretending we are all just perfect and know-it-alls as we transitioned from all of these social tools into just media tools. We aren’t. The conversations themselves are the ones that help us bridge through our very own imperfections to become better at what we do. After all, as the unmatched and thoroughly missed Jay Cross once wrote:
Indeed! We just need to, once and for all, come to terms with the fact that, most of the times, we don’t need any other technology tool(s) to replace what we have been really good at for thousands of years already: Learning is (still) conversation and I am really glad Barcelona has taught me that over the course of last few days by providing me with plenty of unique opportunities to network, connect with and learn from other people. And best part of it all? It’s that for the first time in a long while I managed to enjoy all of that without using my mobile phone a single time!
Just talk to people. Whenever and wherever! And enjoy the almost lost art of a really good conversation … No interruptions, no distractions, no multitasking, just network, connect and learn.
Feeding thy soul.