Lately, it seems like a theme that keeps coming up in my conversations with people is our collectively declining attention span and focus. In our hyper-connected world; emails, calendars and social media tools travel with us everywhere we go.
As a result of our connectedness, we check emails constantly, tweet, scan Facebook updates and check in whenever we have a break in the action (and even sometimes when we don’t). It’s becoming more and more common for people to be checking their device of choice during meetings and conversations. We have an addiction to real time information–even if it’s not terribly profound.
Tomorrow morning, I board a plane to head to Atlanta to join in on the experience of HRevolution. For those who don’t know about HRevolution, it’s an HR unconference that’s in it’s third iteration. In short, it’s a day of conversations about important topics in the world of HR with some really passionate HR pros and consultants from around the world. It’s an awesome experience to engage with peers to really talk and think through some important stuff.
The idea of an unconference is that is has less structure and formality of a tradition conference so that the participants of the conference shape the experience to their needs. In my experience, this model only works if the people in attendance are participating in full contact dialogue–hearing others, thinking about what’s being said, adding your perspective, and jointly arriving at an improved understanding of the issue at hand. Dialogue is intense and it requires a lot of the participants.
Another thing about HRevolution is that most, if not all, of the participants are social media savvy pros who blog and use twitter quite a lot. This means that there will be a lot of people tweeting during the event. I’m going to risk becoming really unpopular for the weekend here and admit that I hate live tweeting during a session that is supposed to be about dialogue and the exchange of ideas. Here’s why.
Picture being in a deep conversation with a friend about an important topic. While you are pouring out your feelings and thoughts to that person, they pull out their phone and start typing. You stop talking and look that them. They look up and say, “Don’t worry, I’m listening. It’s just that something you said was really good so I wanted to tweet it out.” How would you feel? Is the person still listening to you as their tweeting? I mean really listening? The flow of the exchange is gone and the conversation is broken down.
The really great conversations you have with people, the ones that last for hours and have the possibility to live in your thoughts for months to follow are those where all parties involved are fully present in the conversation: mind, body and soul. The participants aren’t listening for “twitter gold,” they are listening for understanding and hidden meaning. They was eagerly anticipating the moment when the spark of insight is born and all parties in the conversation are changed forever.
So, I will not be live tweeting during HRevolution. I will be too busy trying to learn, engage and grow with the others who make the journey to Atlanta. I will likely write some blog posts after the event to share the insights and ideas creating during the experience but that will come later. The opportunity is too important to me to jeopardize by trying to share out of context soundbites with the Twitterverse.
I owe it to the others in the room to be fully present for them. I hope that some of them feel the same way towards me.