Recently, Amazon.com released a device that pundits are calling the "death of brick and mortar retail": the Fire Phone. Its owners will be able to scan any product's bar code, find the same product on Amazon (presumably for a lower price) and buy it on the spot, with same-day or next-day delivery. It's pretty amazing.
Retailers are justifiably terrified for their businesses, and I find the Fire Phone disconcerting for a different reason. With it, people will be able to spend even less time in the public marketplace and more time at home in front of their devices, where we face little risk of being affected by people or situations. To me, that's a flaw, not a feature. We risk a critical loss of that rare commodity called connection.
Connection is best cultivated in person, face-to-face, in those messy real-world meetings where we don't have the luxury of hanging up or unfriending. Connection creates a level of communication with empathy, which goes beyond just clarity. It's being on the same wavelength as another person, yielding a deep understanding of emotions, values, and what makes another human being tick. The serendipitous run-ins at the market or gas station, the shouted "Join us for a drink!" invitation from the sidewalk café nurture our souls, and feed our ability to listen and our tolerance for views different from our own. They free us from our cocoons.
As leaders, inspiring our people means first connecting with them-understanding what motivates them, what they value, and how they view themselves. We can't do that from a distance, by email or social networking. We need to be in the marketplace. We're at our best, leader and led, when we're bouncing off one another and watching the sparks fly.
How are you choosing to connect with the people in your life?