Jo Giles
This is a post by Jo Giles

How many tools do you use every day? Do you check your smartphone as soon as you wake up? Do you check your work email? Or do you bound out of bed to greet the day? You check your phone – admit it, I know you do.

Our modern world is changing how we interact, how we communicate at home and turning us into automatons in business. There’s always a new tool to try to fix a problem, talking to each other has become secondary and we’re walking into each other without seeing – #lookup is now a hashtag. So what are we missing? Why are we more “connected” than ever before but, in reality, facing complete disconnection?

When I joined Edge, one of my first tasks was to ensure we had a workable resource management system, transparency throughout our interstate environment, utilising effective communication tools. I looked at the options and am very happy to have implemented Admation – a system that has transparency for interoffice resourcing, file sharing and approvals. It’s fantastic, truly. But, before I implemented it, I took the time to understand the people I was working with. I sat with them, looked at how they interacted, and my caveat when putting this into the agency was and is that it's a tool, a useful device. That it would never take the place of interacting with each other.

I knew that the best way to get things done is to work together, to bounce ideas off one another to argue a point, to listen to other people’s thoughts to find a nuance that may not have been seen before and, ultimately, the best result for everyone involved. And this isn’t ground-breaking thinking for someone in my role, but I feel everyone in my industry can remind themselves of just how essential person-to-person communication is. To constantly be better in this tech-driven world, we need to step back and remember who we are communicating with. Our customers and our target audiences are people, not machines. They think and feel before they decide to buy insurance, read a magazine or book a trip. So we need to do the same.

In my second year of university I did the first communications paper offered on the curriculum (I’m from NZ, we were a little behind). We were told about this ethereal thing where globally fibre optic cables were being installed – that one day there would be a fridge that would have a computer screen and you could order your avo and bread and have it delivered to your door. I was 19 and sceptical, but this is today’s reality.

The course was futuristic to us but the assignment that stuck with me the most was the last one – 30% of our course mark. We had to stand up and talk to our classmates, with no notes, no video interaction, no laser pointers. We had to demonstrate that we could put forward an idea that we could talk to our peers. I was nervous, I liked hiding behind a desk, submitting typed assignments, postulating about the joys of communication. In the end I found that I could stand in front of my classmates, talking, showing my excitement for what was coming in the future and knowing immediately I was doing a good job explaining my ideas by the looks on their faces. I could see I was going to get an A before the computer-generated results were sent.

To me, person-to-person communication is just as valid as when I took the course, if not more. And though the technology we learnt about with slight scepticism is now reaching fever pitch and is exceeding what we discussed during my time at uni, it’s the lasting lesson of that final assessment that has shaped my career.

So where do we go from here?

Tools can help us work remotely, be more flexible but they also stop us from looking each other in the eye, discussing an issue, the ability to interrupt discuss, argue and solve a problem. Communication is a two-way street. When we talk directly to someone we can hear their tone, see their body language, interpret their meaning better. It can’t be misconstrued. Go and talk to your colleague and understand that interaction one-to-one may bring that solid idea into fruition. Don’t let the tools you implement for connection, lead to disconnect. Talk. It’s that simple.