The analogue reality of digitisation

Have you, too, grown tired of attending one video conference after another? And do you have the feeling that, while the great leap forward in digitisation forced upon us this year is in and of itself a great thing, it does not necessarily imply that we are perfectly content to be working from home? If so, welcome to the club. You may take comfort in the fact that most industry players feel the same way. The unease is simply attributable to the fact that digitisation, despite all the wonderful things is does, cannot substitute for direct social interaction. There have been countless attempts to use digital touchpoints to replace analogue meetings. None of them have been truly convincing. Of course, it is quite nifty to convene some meetings via video conference. But on the whole, it lacks a certain something: the analogue touch.

The principle of chance

It is something that cannot be replaced with any digital technology, at least none that is known today. This in turn has caused most systems that seek to replace our traditional world (meaning the one that permitted the physical attendance of trade fairs until the end of last year) to fail so far. Aside from the experience of touch and smell, there is one factor missing above all: the element of chance. The factor responsible for unplanned encounters at the airport or at the actual event or appointment in addition to all the scheduled agenda items. And let’s be honest: The role these chance encounters play in meetings and in downstream collaborative ventures and projects should not be underrated.

And since this element is impossible to simulate digitally, it is one of the reasons why digital trade fairs are bound to flop. But is there really no way to bring the human factor, which is so essential even in business, into the digital realm in some way that works? Some will perhaps remember Chatroulette, a platform that connected you randomly with someone also online with a video camera and doing funny or peculiar things. This may be fun for a while but it is not really helpful. However, there is one approach that brings us a step closer to our clients and interview partners to some extent despite the digital distance. You have to create situations that you can experience together. Just how you go about creating such a situation depends on the person and the given arrangement.

Hunting for solutions like Sherlock Holmes

Here is an example: In one story about the world’s most famous detective, he is only able to solve a case because he know that a copy of the wide-spread Encyclopedia Britannica is on the bookshelf both of his own and a certain other household. Despite the geographic separation, there is a connecting link, if you will. While the Internet had not yet been invented at the time, Holmes would no doubt have put it to good use.

Our recommendation: Find the encyclopaedia—figuratively speaking—in the bookshelf of your business partners and integrate it into your digital meetings. Whenever that is not possible: Think of some other element of the analogue world that you share and that can serve as common reference point. Rumour has it that this kind of bonding has occasionally taken the form of digital wine or beer tastings, but that is bound to conflict with your compliance requirements. And to create health issues.

But there are many other analogue items you could study, discuss and physically handle above all. In the context of investments that involve real estate, an obvious option is to discuss a given investment asset while having a concrete scale model on the table. Or you could play a game of chess while talking about the next steps in setting up your portfolio. Just use your imagination to provide a welcome change by bringing the analogue world back into your digital communication.

But if you manage to create a shared experience, you will make your communications more sustainable and thereby strengthen your business relations while ultimately benefiting from its value-added in your own right.


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