Did you hear the one about the story that never got heard?
What Covid story are you tired of listening to already? Has “Zoom fatigue” become a tired cliché or will it always be too soon for you to join in on another virtual pub quiz? Like many in this sector, you are probably already well practised in the pivoting process. You understand that there are many advantages in our adoption of the digital communication arenas that have opened up to us. You may even be wondering what the point of office space is, and as for conferences – aren’t they just easier when you can attend them in your pyjamas from your kitchen table?
And yet in our necessary re-assessments of how we use our precious resources as we move forward into this not very brave new world, let us not forget that the richness of shared spaces cannot always be counted or measured. When I worked as a lawyer, I always counselled my trainees to listen as carefully to the chat around them in the office as in the meetings and court hearings that they attended.
By observing the conversations of colleagues, they could uncover a gold mine of insights (personal and professional) that could reward them with better judgment, a potential for an opportunity to “cross sell” their skills and a chance to learn how to do things well – and badly. Watercooler conversations weren’t just about the latest Love Island conundrums – they were often the way in which we learned how to work together effectively and efficiently.
Like so many of you, we at Heart In Mouth have learned to conduct our work virtually, surprising ourselves (but hopefully not our clients) about how, with a little careful planning, stories and strategy; concerns and connections; problems and panaceas can be found and exchanged in the digital sphere. What is it then that we miss about meeting in a “real” room to discuss our stories?
We miss many things, of course, but we think what we miss the most is hearing about the accidental stories. The magical moments when people from other sides of the room get to hear a story in a different voice and from a different direction than was ever intended. The people who met in a coffee queue who realised that though they were brought up on other sides of the track, their journey had now led them to meet and share their visions. The people who connected with a shared eye roll in a mind-numbing meeting who went on to exchange ideas that would transform the lives of those they worked with.
So, as you work with your teams to ensure that enough digital space is created for an effective exchange of ideas and information, spare a thought to ensure that you also create the space for stories. Stories need shared time and shared space for them to be listened to, heard and understood. Don’t forget that stories are how we have exchanged ideas and information since we sat around the campfires. Let’s make sure we still do so while we sit around our screens.
[This blog was first published on Third Force News at https://bit.ly/3ka6A5d]