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

Instead of whining about how technology keeps people in silos, luddites need to talk to Ayelet Baron and Patricia Fripp.

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

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.

, 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.”


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.

I’m speaking with a client in my 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.”

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.”

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


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 or call 510-527-0700. Simma Lieberman is the co-author of Putting Diversity to Work, how to successfully lead a diverse workforce.