Keepin' It Real in the Virtual World: How Technology Can Help Us Find Intimacy

I'm one of those people who love technology but don't know as much as I would like. As an organizational development consultant, I'm always interested in ways to use technology to market, develop talent, create new products, and save time and energy.

As "the Inclusionist," I'm in awe of how individuals and organizations use technology to build relationships, bring people together from across the world, and collaborate in real time.

I decided to talk to two women whose knowledge and use of technology are very different from each other, and who both fascinate and inspire me; Patricia Fripp, a world renowned speaking coach, and award winning keynote speaker, and Ayelet Baron, VP, Strategy and Transformation at Cisco Systems Canada Co.

Patricia Fripp, admitted to me that at a time when all her speaking colleagues were using email and database management systems, she was intimidated and knew very little about technology. "I told myself that I was in danger of being left behind, and that if I didn't learn how to use the technology that was available to my advantage, I would have to retire. I wasn't ready for that."

That is not true of Patricia in 2011. I recently attended a program, where Fripp demonstrated how she uses her online virtual office to stay in communication with colleagues, work with clients and secure new business.

"When I'm speaking with a client in my FrippVirtual.com office, they see the real me, in a replica of a sleeker, less cluttered offices with a high price view of the Golden Gate Bridge, the Las Vegas Strip and the UK branch office in Pershore. This also gives potential clients a sense of who I am, and what it would be like to work with me. I've even had clients comment on my wonderful view from my window which is also a replica."

Fripp has used her virtual office as a place to teach people across the world how to deliver outstanding sales presentations. ""I no longer have to get on a plane every time I work with my clients on the East Coast or even across town."

Patricia believes very strongly in the importance of "personal touch," and "emotional connection," with her clients, colleagues, and audience. While some people grumble about how technology like social media, email, YouTube, and SmartPhone texting has alienated people, has kept them isolated and destroyed interpersonal relationships, Fripp has learned to use technology as a way to connect emotionally, and increase her "personal touch," sphere of influence. "Technology on it's own helps make us more efficient. However, when we realize when used in combination with the personal touch it is a business and relationship enhancing strategy. Technology doesn't run the enterprise. Relationships do."

Ayelet Baron says that collaboration can change the world. She is a recognized industry leader and speaker on social networking, strategic change, new technologies and business strategy. Ayelet says, "technology for technologies sake is meaningless. You have to focus on your business strategy and look at how technology enables it. For example, we have had huge success at Cisco in using social media to reduce costs, extend our reach and engage customers and partners. The value has been in bringing people together by using social media tools like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. The strategy is focused on the impact you want to have and not on the tools. There is way too much hype about social media today but if you look at it from how to integrate it in how you do business, you will find the value that works for you and your organization."

To that end,Cisco has gone beyond connecting to computers and created Quad to connect people. Quad is a collaboration product that merges multiple communication tools, including phone, video, and a corporate-friendly form of social networking.

"I have started using Quad and think that social software will make huge changes in internal collaboration. We are going to see an increase in the role of social software in organizations as a way to tap into employees' passion and connect people around interests and work needs. It will be another step toward open leadership and companies need to be prepared to "lose control" and in return have a more engaged workforce," Baron said.

At Cisco, Ayelet has been using TelePresence technology to bring girls together from Kenya with girls in Canada. "We have helped these girls interact and develop relationships in ways that were not possible before and encourage them to consider a career in IT. Being able to sit face to face in a TelePresence session has made the world smaller for them and showed them that they share so much. The girls in Kenya went back to their friends and told them that thanks to Cisco, they went to Canada today and met girls just like them. As a result, we had 20 new girls join Cisco's Networking Academy in Nairobi."

At Cisco, Ayelet has been using their Telepresence technology to bring girls together from Kenya with girls in Canada. "We have helped these girls interact and develop relationships in ways that were not possible before. "

"Using technology has made the world smaller. It has enabled us to have more access to information and be able to share it. Kids from very different backgrounds can talk to each other, and find new ways to work together to create a better world." http://ayeletb.posterous.com/giving-youth-a-voice-wherever-they-are

In addition Ayelet has used her expertise to help NGOs (non-governmental organizations ) that are working to do good in the world develop forums to share problems, solutions and best practices

I was somewhat transfixed as I listened to Baron talk about the possibilities, and opportunities, that have been and will be created by social media and Cisco technology.

Unfortunately for me, I want to be able to experience it all, and my brain goes on overload. Ayelet said that the problem is not information overload, it's not being able to filter all of the information. Since I heard her say that, I have been more conscious of what I really need to know, and what is irrelevant. (One of my problems is that so much is relevant to my interests)

But, I no longer feel like I have to understand every new technology, or learn how to use every one of the thousands of Apps on my phone. It's okay if I don't download "Texas HoldEm." It's also okay if I don't know how to play League of Legends, or World of Warcraft with my son, or know how to hack into his Facebook page because he refuses to friend me.

However, as I was writing this article, I ended up joining Quora and spending the last hour reading questions. I definitely need to get better at filtering information, so I have more time for intimacy.

Simma creates workplace cultures where people love to do their best work and customers love to do business. Follow her on twitter: @theinclusionist. Subscribe to her newsletter. E-mail Simma@SimmaLieberman.com or call 510-527-0700. Simma Lieberman is the co-author of Putting Diversity to Work, how to successfully lead a diverse workforce.

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