Home > gsd > the human moment, 10 years later

the human moment, 10 years later

Today, thanks to via @dwhelan and @SAlhir, I came across a 10-year-old Harvard Business Review article by Edward M. Hallowell on the importance of real, face-to-face ‘human moments’ to meaningful communication and resolving or defusing interpersonal issues. Its relevance to globally distributed software development was obvious, so I kept reading.

At first I didn’t notice that the article was written in early 1999: it seemed completely relevant today, if not even more so due to the explosion in virtual communications (blogs, microblogs, Second Life, email, waves, smartphone texts, etc.). Hallowell defines “the human moment: an authentic psychological encounter that can happen only when two people share the same physical space.” While co-location is necessary, it is not sufficient: “The human moment has two prerequisites: people’s physical presence and their emotional and intellectual attention.” His concern, which appears to have been well-founded, was “as the tide of electronic hyperconnection rises, the landscape of work is in some ways changing for the worse.”

Electronic hyperconnection hasn’t just been a rising tide over the past 10 years; it’s been more of a tsunami. And the use of globally distributed software development (GSD) teams has increased significantly as well. Does the combination create a perfect storm, or can these virtual communications offset the risks of GSD?

We’ve been experimenting with telepresence-style technologies, and they clearly do have the potential for conveying emotional and intellectual attention (if the participants provide it). What seems to somehow still be missing, and perhaps this is why videoconferencing isn’t yet a true substitute for face-to-face meetings, is enablement of a sufficient level of interpersonal energy.

Have any of you ever had a virtual ‘meeting’ in which you experienced the same level of interpersonal connection as F2F? If so, I’d love to hear how you did it.

Categories: gsd
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