Two excellent blogs (Lifehacker and Boing Boing) I often read posted this video clip of Jason Fried, the co-founder of 37signals. On the surface it’s a pretty lame starting point for a blog post, I admit–a guy talks into a camera for six minutes.
However, the video’s worth watching because Fried suggests that IM, e-mail and other virtual communication benefit workers more than traditional face-to-face conversations. You’ve undoubtedly heard people — employees, boss and workplace experts — criticize today’s technology-driven workplace for a lack of personal interaction. The problem, these critics explain, is that no one walks the ten feet to knock on someone’s office door or even rolls their chair across the aisle to chat with their cube neighbor. Not only are we supposedly lazy, but we don’t know how to interact with people anymore. We’re used to pressing buttons and typing texts, not making eye contact and holding conversations.
Fair points, and they express a viewpoint that many, many people agree with. However, Fried offers a counterpoint. In his opinion, relying on technology allows people to respond to messages when it is convenient for them. For example, if your colleague has a question but it’s not urgent, rather than interrupt you, she can send an e-mail that you can reply to at your convenience. No interrupting your current task or breaking your concentration. Seems logical to me.
So watch Fried’s clip and tell us whether or not you agree with him. Have you worked in environments where technology was the preferred and more effective form of communication? Did you work for a company where in-person conversation was the only acceptable way to get things done? Let us know.