Board Markers, Sticky Notes and #Freehugs. The importance of Human-Human interactions in the Digital Age

Board Markers, Sticky Notes and #Freehugs. The importance of Human-Human interactions in the Digital Age

The world we live in is changing at an ever increasing rate. But it is not only the rate of change that is a constant challenge for management, it is also the fact that the world is moving closer together (no matter whether physically or virtually) and this brings about a good mixture of cultures, varying working models and procedures that have to be brought together and consolidated in a way that the best of all worlds finds its way into the overall strategy. 

For me, the most exciting developments are to be found in companies that know: no matter which methodology we choose for the cooperation in our teams, we notice one thing: the need for real human interactions! We work in agile environments not only “in the box” (on computers, with social-collaborative tools, etc.),  but much more with each other in person.  Example my current job: we are a digital company, but for the biggest part our work is not done in the computer, but through human interactions, and through much more handwriting than one would initially expect.


For example, The massive growth of agile practices means that collaborative meetings are becoming more and more popular in companies of all sizes and industries. We are moving away from standard meetings with a spokesman, a minute-taker, and throngs of people sitting around a table with no real contribution.   The new way is to get out of the meeting chairs and stand against the wall together, pick up pens, draw your concepts together in pictures or diagrams, and in this way understand the topic and each other better. 

I’ve always been a big fan of doodling and putting ideas on paper – especially when discussing complex ideas with others. And it’s no wonder that Scribes have become a so welcome role at conferences, seminars and workshops all over the world. They manage to capture the essence of  the wealth of information of these events in a way which all participants immediately understand.  

In the company I work for, we work together on walls, we stand around in groups to discuss and agree.  Our tools are sticky notes and sharpies. We treat our walls with paint that allows us to write on them together and commonly design and communicate our structures, procedures, backlogs or cultural aspects. Are we like the Cavemen of old?  That’s possible. Like the ancient Egyptians with the hieroglyphs, and the Norsemen with their Runestones?  The main thing is that it contributes to gaining a common understanding. And it works. It leads to an increased transfer of knowledge, reduces blockades, and generates a better understanding of common goals. Drawings help us to understand things that are familiar to us, and even in their most rudimentary form they invoke something in our brains which fosters the emotional connection we need to understand and even accept. 


A bit of an extreme statement, I admit.  But we all know that successful teams need more than processes, tools, and premises in order to survive.  Just as we humans need the “cuddle-hormone” oxytocin which actually strengthens trust and promotes social bonding, a team that can be close, sympathetic and empathetic will work together more successfully. 

Since people subconsciously tend to follow the law of proximity, we could also use this to our advantage.  The proximity of the team members has potentially important effects on the common work – it leads to an increased knowledge transfer, reduces blockades, and generates a better understanding for common goals.

In everything we do, we make some kind of contact with others – only we allow this to happen at differing levels. Let’s not forget: in professional situations we enter into relationships and move in unspoken distances to each other.  The question is, how much closeness can and should one allow in the job? We need to be aware of these connections and how can we use them profitably in organisations.  For certain, closeness promotes good chemistry and trust, and thus improves cooperation and learning ability in teams.  

Just as a lack of food, water and rest has its negative effects, lack of empathy, human proximity and – yes  – even affection has its negative effects. For team leaders this means, it is important to recognise the different relationships among team members as well as to themselves. They must also assess the different needs, and develop skills that go beyond the mere use of tools to guide the dynamics of the team.  The leader must also learn that you don’t do these things to force something in return.  Team members need to find an environment where they feel OK when they open up and allow things to happen.

So, my Appel is to address the inter-human relationship as a vital part of reaching goals such as productivity, quality of products and services and cost efficiency.  It’s no secret, and it is certainly not breaking news that human capital is the number one factor governing success and failure these days – in order to nurture this human capital, we must come up with plans for seeing to it that good quality leadership, ethics and working relationships are in place. 

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