Recently on The Startup Foundry, Paul Hontz proposed the concept of a startup incubator that operates entirely online. Could this concept work? Hontz thinks it could if the right elements were in place, but the experts he asked disagreed. Their discussion got me thinking about the online vs. offline worlds and what’s lost when interactions take place in the virtual world only.
Think back to when you started your business. Who helped you? Who inspired you? Where did you go for advice? Could all of those interactions have happened online with no loss of quality? I’m guessing not.
Where do you get help and inspiration today as your business grows? Could all of that take place online? I still think the answer is no. Even though we’re meeting people and forming relationships through social media or e-mail, eventually, we want to take the relationship offline and meet up face to face.
There’s something about in-person interaction that’s just more inspiring and energizing than interacting online. Perhaps it’s the real-time element—when you’re talking one-on-one, there’s no distance between you, and no lag time waiting for a response. Or maybe it’s just the “human factor”—we’re wired to interact with others in a physical way.
Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to spend most of your business day staring at one kind of screen or another. So how can you fit more face-to-face interaction (and thus inspiration) into your day? Here are four ideas.
1. Meet up before or after
Sure, your day is packed, but there’s got to be some time before the day starts—or after it officially ends. Can you get together with a colleague for coffee or breakfast? Perhaps a brisk walk or workout at the gym with a partner will get the ideas flowing. Or take a cue from Mad Menand meet for a drink at the end of the day.
2. Manage by walking around
Getting out of your office and talking to employees not only builds camaraderie, but also inspires ideas. Seeing what your staff is really doing day-to-day and hearing how they’re thinking will inspire both you and them.
3. Talk to strangers
You never know when someone will say something that sparks your creativity—so be friendly and strike up a chat with salespeople in stores, other passengers on the subway, bus or plane, or the next time you’re waiting in line.
4. Spend time with family and friends
Even at home when the work day is over, it’s easy to slip into separate realms with everyone glued to their own personal screens. Take time to break away from the digital world and spend time just talking. You’ll gain new perspectives when you truly listen to what your spouse, teens or parents are saying.
What all these four ideas have in common is that they simply ask you to be open to whatever happens when people interact. And being open is where innovation is born.
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