Thursday, December 12, 2013

Face to face may not mean side by side

Mentoring newcomers to the strategies and practices of communicating to employee communities—is that something we’re improving now that we have social media and wearable computing all around us? Not me. Not yet.

I’m the person more likely to ask a summer intern, as I’m rushing off to another meeting, to take a stab at Project A or Tactic B while I’m gone, and we’ll talk about it later. I have an acquaintance who does just the opposite. She takes her intern with her to every meeting. Listening and observing a business meeting may not directly add a sample to a student’s communication portfolio and is possibly just confusing to a newbie, but surely it adds business know-how. And I suspect it creates a master-apprentice relationship that benefits both.

Question for the day: What’s the best way to be mentored by someone far away, and can technology actually make it better than in-person coaching?

Photographers and artists have a way to enter that master-apprentice path online now that intrigues me. Take a few minutes to watch the video to see how it works—or just to enjoy the great photography.

I know some of you have been following the lengthy ongoing conversation in the IABC group on LinkedIn over the past couple of weeks. The master of employee communication asked a simple question about “intellectual laziness” in our field. Response has been passionate, disruptive, heartfelt, rowdy, embracing—all positive lessons for people pushing into the master category themselves and those just starting to explore.

Yet, as in all human communication, words sometimes fail us. One person’s deep belief didn’t seem relevant in another person’s workplace as we tried using words to describe our situations. Conversation spiraled in a confusing direction. The truth is, we come at discussions like this one from different worlds with different daily experiences even though we have similar interests and skills in business communication. In this instance, what qualified as intellectual laziness and what represented the right curiosity and research? That answer isn’t the point of this commentary. The point is to ponder whether multi-sensory exchanges of knowledge and insight might improve how we learn from masters, as in the mastery video. And also, can contextual exchanges that are part of wearable computing help make our points?

Just as the telegraph made the world smaller and television helped us share a culture, wearable computing may be a turning point in how we learn to better communicate at work by sitting side by side, so to speak, in the meeting room with a master far away. Think it could happen? If not, just watch.

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Want Google Glass? Give someone or yourself the adventure of testing Google Glass. I have a couple of invites to become a Google Glass Explorer. Let me know by Dec. 20, 2014, why you want to be part of the beta testing and, in particular, how you would explore using Glass at work. The rules are set by Google, not me, and they include your having to purchase Glass at $1,500 plus tax and shipping. (I don’t work for Google or get any remuneration at any time.) Also, you must be a US resident, at least 18 years old, and provide a US shipping address or pick up Glass at a Google location in New York, San Francisco or Los Angeles.

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