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Saturday, November 11, 2020

Energy Equals Mess—Electronically.

In the management world, Einstein's famous equation (e=mc2) linking mass with energy works just as well to link the energy expended by a manager with the potential mess—not mass—he or she can make. Why include the constant (c), standing for the speed of light? Because that's more or less how fast electronic messages can travel today, happily propagating that mess all around the business (industry/country/world) at light speed.

Wayne Turmel, writing for Management Issues, in an article titled Incompetence at the speed of light, raises an interesting question:
Genghis Khan managed to rule over half the known world without once having a conference call or conducting a webinar. He did it all with a system of flags and horsemen. So why is it that most companies today, with more ways to communicate then ever, do such a lousy job?
Wayne thinks the problem is biological. Electronic information travels at nearly the speed of light, but human brains can't work nearly that fast. I think he is right.

The other issue is remoteness. If you have to stand, toe to toe, with someone and tell them that they are a congenital idiot who needs to get with the program and stop acting like a total jerk, you are likely to consider your conduct carefully before springing into action—especially if the other person is large, looking angry, and has ready access to a sharp implement. The rising tide of fury in their face will warn you that you have, maybe, gone a little too far.

By the time it crosses your slow, designed-in-the-Stone-Age mind that you really should not have written what you wrote, it's too late. The undoubted proof that the jerk is you is already out there, winging around the world at light speed.
But no such problem awaits the manager with access to e-mail, instant messaging, or any other form of electronic communication. As soon as your brain formulates some silly or insulting message, your fingers tap it out and—bingo—it's on its way, probably also copied to a hundred other people on some crazy distribution list. By the time it crosses your slow, designed-in-the-Stone-Age mind that you really should not have written what you wrote, it's too late. The undoubted proof that the jerk is you is already out there, winging around the world at light speed.

Electronic communications have made it more important, not less, that people slow down, take time to think, and consider carefully before entrusting their thoughts, let alone their emotions, to the rest of the world. It's easy enough to screw up when the means involves walking along the corridor and speaking to someone else, or even sending a letter by snail mail. When you do it electronically, in the heat of the moment and under all the usual pressure to get things done —now—the potential for disaster is whole orders of magnitude greater.

Stop. Think, long and hard, before pressing that "send" button. Your credibility—and your reputation as a rational human being—may depend on it.


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