Over Easter I travelled to the country region, Gippsland in south eastern Australia where I grew up. I didn’t go back to the family farm because I didn’t grow up on a farm but I did the next best thing . I stayed with my cousin who did grow up on a farm and also ran the family dairy farm until recently. As we sat around his kitchen table I could have easily been in a dairy farm kitchen - unfortunately the multi nationals made small dairy farms impossible to survive so we were on his mini acreage property in a town called Drouin. There was a paddock out the front but a housing development out the side.
So like preserving an ancient linguistic heritage we spoke a language that is fast disappearing. The language of country common sense.
Like - why were electric can openers invented when the task of opening a can is so simple. And why UHF milk is a part of a global conspiracy to maximise profit and minimise choice and how Home Brand goods actually all end up coming from China. I loved the part where we talked about how our grandfathers who chopped wood and mowed lawns manually did not need to go to a gym. Unfortunately my memories of my pop are of a big rotund man with braces and the highest pants you could ever imagine. As I ate my bacon and tapped my growing tummy I felt part of the circle of life.
We chatted over some expertly brewed coffee where we lamented the rise of the instant society. Instant potato? Instant tea? If you can’t boil a potato or even dunk a tea bag there must be so much time saved which begs the question. With all of this saved time available what have we done with it?
I shared an article from Twitter from @marshallk about the invention and rise of instant coffee. http://t.co/TISvT5c Here the process of saving time and cost actually eliminated the true taste of coffee. We agreed around the table that the process of making a coffee, from grinding the beans and tamping the ground coffee and heating the milk is a fundamental part of the enjoyment of a cup of coffee.
It reminded me of a trip a few years ago to Bosnia. Bosnian coffee is thick. A bit like Turkish coffee it is to be sipped slowly. I quite enjoyed the strong taste but my Bosnian host leant over and said “you are drinking the coffee too quickly. This cup of coffee should take at least an hour to drink!”
Sharing a coffee was really about the process of sitting together and conversing. The rise of instant has robbed us. The return of barista staffed coffee shops has started to reinvent this ritual. Perhaps all of those people sitting around are not wasting time?
Like coffee, communication channels are also changing with swings and roundabouts. Texts and twittering can save us time.
This is not a modern day rant. Interestingly the old fashioned telegrams were more like text messages than letters. The term “watg” stood for “where are the goods” and was a commonly understood abbreviation. The terms Thx (thanks), YF (wife), TMR tomorrow) Sez, (says) all from a teenagers SMS? No. From an age old morse code book of abbreviations!
My guess is carrier pigeon messages were also quite brief and Morse Code operators were rarely verbose!
Communication has always been a constant dance between the medium and the content.
In our lifetime we will have the opportunity to create new forms of communication. This does not have to be dominated by technology. While the Dick Tracy watch could well be the iphone 5, the rise of the blog is like a modern day letter or for those with lots of Twitter followers like oracles that pass from town to town. Social networks perhaps are like community round tables or perhaps Belgium beer halls.
So at this juncture I want to take a moment to ask something.
If you could design business communication for our future what would it look like?
As we reinvent our way of communicating in the workplace can we also learn from the past and from various cultural perspectives? Can we not confuse instant with shallow? Can we steal back the time we have saved and use it to converse?
I am thinking of business conversations around the dairy farmers kitchen or chats in a Bosnian coffee house. Here is the start of a list:
Where listening is as important as talking.
Where we allow an idea to evolve before we act.
Where we gather the wisdom of experience rather than leaving it to the momentum of ego.
Where face to face time is valued.
Where there is time to reflect.
We reply to a question when asked.
We introduce our friends and colleagues to others respectfully.
Where ideas can come from anywhere.
Where revolutionary ideas that do good can spread.
What would you like to see?