We are now a world of information sources. We have television, books, magazines, talk radio and the internet. We have vast libraries which store the recorded thoughts, musings and assumed facts of generations of human beings. We have universities that will allow one to obtain a degree at your own pace and while never seeing an actual campus.
We have video games so immersive that one can fall in and not come out for months.
But we still live in a world, still exist in a world. Today I can go to the store and buy fresh produce from Chile. Picked only days ago, still fresh, and rapidly shipped to my local grocery. I can sit in Ocean Shores, Washington, and chat with friends in Japan or China with great ease.
But that chat over an ocean is no equivalent for having them here or me there. That grape showing up in my store is no substitute for being in Chile. These things have immense value, but they do not lessen the need for direct experience and personal conversation.
I am very proud that my company has reached a point where we don't need to be in the same location all the time. During a recent, highly important project, I was in Hong Kong, my business partner was in Paris, and our staff was spread around cities in two American states and two Canadian provinces.
Now we're discussing the next level of that. My business partner is considering moving to Hawaii. He's by no means sold on the idea himself, but the startling fact is that no one in the company though it was unusual to consider the idea.
We all recognize, though, that there is extreme value in face to face contact. One of our engineers has spent the last few days sitting at our conference table - which is 10 feet closer to my business partner's office than where he usually sits - simply to be closer to William so they could work better.
Lord Chesterfield is quoted as saying "The knowledge of the world is only to be acquired in the world, and not in a closet." The world is populated by a mixture of people and experience. I tell my clients that people give information context. In this case, people as warm bodies with facial expressions, pauses, poorly chosen words, and massive fallibility give extra context to information.
William and Allan have multiple channels of communication that make them highly mobile, highly adaptable, and highly communicative. Yet Allan still inches closer to William when rich communication is vital. In Instant Messenger, William can edit his part of the conversation so it is precise. The information he is presenting is therefore theoretically more useful. They can also go back later and search for their pearls of wisdom for later use.
Yet verbal communication is more highly valued. With all its stammering and pauses and uhhhhs, it is preferred for the creation of insight.
This is what they've been working on, insight. They have been combining several new technologies to create an entirely new and different piece of software. They both have all the features Ken and I had created. They both have the user interface diagrams that Chris and Lynne created. But now they have to mold the code to meet our collective vision.
To do this, despite all the great technology we have, they scoot closer together to nearly literally put their heads together on the problem.
Clark Kent, after his father's funeral said, "All those things I can do .... all those powers...... and I couldn't even save him." Social media gives business massive powers but in the end, just like Superman, we all need people and our special powers can't change that.
What will happen to Gray Hill should one of us move out of the Pacific Northwest? I'm not sure. Even Ken in our Vancouver office makes frequent drives down to Seattle for face time. A 2 hour drive is much easier to justify than a long plane ride from Oahu to Seattle. And Allan would have to scoot much further than 10 feet.
Would this stop us from trying to find a solution? Certainly not. Social media and our own craving for communication would never allow us to dodge a challenge like that.
Blogged from the Sai Oak in Ocean Shores, Washington