Photo courtesy lordcolus

TED Speakers Encourage Attendees to Disconnect In Order to Reconnect

Posted by · March 1, 2012 9:29 pm

Photo courtesy lordcolusIf I had to sum up the theme of yesterday’s TEDTalks, it would be “Disconnect to reconnect.” Whether it was roboticist Henrik Scharfe telling us why romance with robots is not in our best interest, graphic designer Chip Kidd making a case for hard copy books over eReaders or public interest lawyer Bryan Stevenson reminding us that we won’t be judged for our technology and design but for how we treated the poor, condemned and incarcerated, the subtext of many of yesterday’s speeches was the importance of stepping away from technology and engaging with the world–especially the people–around us. Here’s a recap of two of the most poignant talks from yesterday’s TED conference:

Jim Stengel: Build authentic relationships with customers

In August of 2001, right after Jim Stengel was appointed Chief Marketing Officer of Proctor and Gamble (P&G), his brother, Bob, was diagnosed with cancer.  Bob was a well-loved family practitioner in the small town he and Jim grew up in. Jim traveled the world for P&G.

“Suddenly, my new job seemed very trivial,” Jim said. “Bob was one of the kindest, most generous and empathetic people you will ever meet. He always called, emailed or wrote me a letter to tell me how proud he was of me, and after he told me he had cancer, I had this intense feeling that I wanted to make him proud.”How businesses can build authentic relationships with customers

So, Jim decided to reimagine his job at P&G with his brother in mind:

“I started wondering what it would be like if business built deep, authentic relationships with their customers. I asked myself: What if leaders set their sites higher? What if in this age of emerging social networks, we could listen better? What if a business could be like my brother?”

In November of 2010, Bob passed away after a long battle with leukemia. Two years prior, Jim had left P&G to start his own consulting firm (The Jim Stengel Company) and help companies rethink business as usual and enter “the era of higher ideals.”  According to Stengel, businesses that embrace these ideals have a clear mission; and employees at companies with strong ideals understand the higher order benefit their company brings to the world. They go to work each day knowing they will be able to live their passion through their job.

“Your company’s ideals must be explicit, inspirational and engaging to your employees,” Stengel says. “If it doesn’t work internally, it will never work externally.”
So when are strong company ideals most important?

“When times are tough,” Stengel says. “Everyone will be watching your behavior when things get hard, so you have to live this ideal when times are good and when times are tough.”

Sherry Turkle: It’s OK to put down your smartphone

Is it possible that our very souls are being eaten alive by the technology we’ve created? Sherry Turkle thinks we run that risk if we don’t start changing the way we relate to technology. In her book, Alone Together, Turkle asserts that our constant need to be connected to a computer or mobile device is setting us up for trouble with how we relate to each other and destroying our capacity for self reflection.

”The little devices in our pockets are so psychologically powerful that they don’t just change what we do, they change who we are,” Turkle said during her TEDTalk yesterday.

She points to the fact that we now do things with technology that we never would have dreamed of doing years ago: We text in board meetings, classrooms and even funerals. Essentially, we’re together without really being together. This type of behavior is particularly problematic for adolescents who need to learn to develop face-to-face relationships.

“While I was conducting some of my research, a teenager came up to me and said ‘someday, but certainly not now I’d like to learn to have a conversation,'” Turkle said. “A conversation takes place in real time and you can’t control what you’re going to say. The online world lets us present the self as we want to be. Human relationships are rich and they’re messy and they’re demanding. These days we’re sacrificing conversation for mere connection, and we’re short changing ourselves.”

So how does Turkle suggest we remedy this problem?

First, she says we need to teach children the value of solitude. A machine is not a companion. It’s OK to be alone with our thoughts or without our devices while in the presence of others. Second, we need to dedicate space to being alone. Set aside your kitchen or your living room or your bedroom as a no technology zone and stick to that resolution. Third, we need to listen to each other–even the “boring bits” as Turkle calls them. Resist the urge to check your phone when the (real time) conversation gets dull. Focus and fully engage with the other person.

What do you all think? Can businesses actually develop relationships with their customers? What about technology? Is it helping or hurting us?