3.11.2013

Has Technology Made Business Less Personal?

 The internet. These two words have revolutionized both the way that we live and do business. In today's world, it is possible for some entrepreneurs to have business partners and customers that they've never even met. Technology makes business convenient, fast and global- but has it  also made business less personal? What are we missing out on by not taking the time to meet and build relationships with those around us, outside of the virtual realm?
There have been many conversations on how the digitization of almost all of our interactions affects our relationships with our friends, families and significant others, but how has it affected our ability to do business? In a sense, technology has made many in today's society, particularly young entrepreneurs, deficient in terms of their ability to actually interact with those within their network. A network is no longer a series of relationships based on people you either know directly or through friends. Instead, you can look people up online, learn about their backgrounds and "network" with complete strangers, with little more than an email. Sites like Facebook and Linkedin speak to the frequency of this trend, but what does a 1000 person strong network online translate into, in real society?

I believe that while this may plant the seeds for the development of meaningful professional relationships (both online and offline), it creates a sense of distance which undermines the ability to quickly build trust and credibility. Additionally, it can foster a culture in which business is conducted solely behind the security of computer screens. You never have to worry about being challenged in person and pushed to think on your feet. You can always take the time to ponder and answer and as such it can affect the development of solid negotiations skills, public speaking skills and expertise in the field in question. A colleague of mine refers to these kinds of people as "digital gangsters". They are bold and confident when conversations are restricted to emails, but when pressed to interact face to face, they are a mere shadow of their internet personalities. Unless you plan on hiding behind a screen for the entirety of your business career, it is imperative that you develop these skills, not by abandoning technology all together. After all, flying across the world every time you have a question isn't a practical or affordable solution. But do get out there and actually speak to people- make an effort to know your network.

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