I've often mentioned here something I believe strongly, namely that "face-to-face conversation is the new luxury."
Think about it for a minute. With so many options for communicating these days (telephone; fax; IM; email; Skype, and on and on) we think carefully about how we should budget our time spent face to face with someone else. The high "cost" in terms of time should be factored in when you make that next commitment to a face to face meeting. Is it necessary? If not, send an email or make a call. Have your computer "get in touch" with someone.
But if it is important, plan to make it face to face and take time to prepare for it properly. Think about what you want to accomplish. Keep in mind that just as you value your time, so does the person or group with whom you'll be meeting. And that's true not just in your work life. When you have time with people you love, make it valuable. Give them your full attention...no blackberry or email in the slack moments. These are valuable moments together and can't be recaptured. Make sure you don't spend them multi-tasking.
And at work, make sure your work environment is one that values interactive conversation, especially face-to-face. A long time ago, I met with Michael Bloomberg (now Mayor of New York), while he was still running Bloomberg, Inc. I was impressed by the cultural importance at his company of the "bullpen" concept: everyone in one big space, where ideas could bounce off one another rather than require walking to someone's office, knocking on the door and all those other challenges to get innovative things cooking.
I'm impressed by what Auren Hoffman, CEO of Rapleaf, said recently in a Business Week article. The relevant portion to today's post is sub-headlined "No Substitute for Face-to-Face Interactions" and Auren's piece reads:
"Another tip: Great people feed off of each other in person. You read about companies sending operations offshore and doing development from virtual offices. But a distributed workforce is really hard to manage and real innovation rarely happens in distributed environments. There are certainly exceptions, especially with big open-source projects like Linux, hadoop, and Firefox, which were developed by teams of people working out of various locations. But more traditionally, it is very hard to find a highly innovative team based largely on outsourcing and telecommuting.
Google's (GOOG) early employees all worked in its early Palo Alto (Calif.) office. Facebook's people all work together now in Palo Alto (Facebook even provides a financial incentive for employees to live in its home city). Rapleaf's employees are all together in San Francisco.
Big innovation often comes from massive collaboration and rapid iteration, and that can much more easily happen when people work in close quarters and can see each other. (That means no opaque walls or cubicles in the development center, either)." You can read the entire article here.