Quality vs. quantity
Communication is one of the keys to achieving integrated and engaged teams. There’s ample evidence showing that connecting people together produces far better results than for the same people working in isolation. This possibly suggests that reliable and fully available access to massive information repositories may improve people’s knowledge. If we add to this, the widespread use of devices that enable us to be constantly connected to other people, it looks as if today we have the best communicated teams in the history of mankind. However, this is not so. In fact, there is no clear correlation between the volume of information we exchange, and the degree of connection generated.
Recently, a popular messaging application included a function enabling messages and images sent to be limited to seven days, after which they vanish from the recipients’ devices. Actually, this isn’t a recent invention. The functionality has long since been available among its competitors, and even natively. To be more than an anecdote, this highlights how information (and, to some extent, education) is becoming ephemeral and a consumable product with a pretty short expiry date. Information has increasingly limited life cycles. This programmed obsolescence does not only have to do with saturation in our mobile devices or with our cloud storage quotas, but with the fact that what happened recently is irrelevant given the onslaught of new information demanding our full attention. It is rather like a metabolic process in which we rapidly ingest, process, and eliminate our nutrients.
Is everything solid rigid and everything liquid adaptive?
This was already very clearly seen by Z. Bauman years ago. In “Liquid Modernity” he devotes a chapter to space and time, where he describes how technology disrupts us. This is not only about the delocalization and the relocation of production centres to countries where labour costs are lower. It has to do, above all, with the irrelevance of physical location. The pandemic has accelerated this process dramatically. It matters little where we are located, what are the coordinates defining our place in space. In this sense, I like Enrique Sueiro’s statement where he says that we need more compasses and fewer stopwatches. We need to orient ourselves, to know where we are and where we want to go, not just the speed at which events happen.
However, Baumann also stresses that not only space becomes liquid; time is also dissolving in some way. Today’s men and women, he says, differ from their fathers and mothers because “they live in a present in which they want to forget the past and no longer seem to believe in the future.” It is the apotheosis of the instant. The past vanishes as soon as we turn the corner, and the future seems so uncertain that it is not worth wasting time planning for it.
From the point of view of team building and consolidation, such volatile information does not help to create stable attachments. Centuries later, Horace’s famous recommendation: Carpe Diem, has regained its splendour. The professional careers of the best qualified people are not thought of in terms of stable attachment to the same project. Analysing the value that this attachment brings me at the moment takes precedence.
Communication connecting to our history and projecting to the future
In order to create more cohesive teams and communities, we don’t need more volumes of information but instead higher quality communication. A sense of belonging isn’t formed just by simultaneous consumption of the same communication products. We need to share a history and project a common future. Actually, it’s vexing to hear hackneyed platitudes, such as that we live in a VUCA environment. Over-emphasizing how volatile and uncertain our future is possibly, becomes an excuse for improvisation. The downside of not designing our future together is that others will do it for us. If we are not connected to what we were, it is hard to connect to what we will become.