As much as we can’t imagine life without computers now, for the entire history of humankind, up until the computer, one could hardly imagine life with one. Everyone just got on with it. Sydney Harbour Bridge was constructed with pencils and paper, slide rules and the occasional abacus. The entire workforce was managed with ledgers, index cards and rubber stamps. Workers were paid by cash and perhaps some of the bigger transactions were done with hand-written promissory notes. Though typewriters and telephones were in use, most communication was surely face-to-face, or scrawled with fountain pens.
What’s my point? That somehow everything still worked. Huge projects, like hydro-electric schemes, subway systems and even the Opera House, with all its curvy complexity, were completed well before anyone “needed” a computer to get anything done. Systems and networks existed, such as information and project management. Most importantly; humans interacted with other humans, agreed, shook hands, signed contracts and made it happen.
We are being mesmerised into thinking that somehow it is only since the birth of ‘Web 2.0’ that we have had the ability to socially network. We forget that before FaceBook, we had a little black book. While computers and the Internet have certainly facilitated and amplified networking to unfathomable scales, most real business is done in person. Politicians might all use Blackberries and iPhones, but they haven’t moth-balled the two houses of parliament just yet. Most offices still have board rooms. Trade shows and Expos seem to be experiencing a boom right now. Computers do make them far more efficient to organise, while at the same time, people are realising how awesome they are at generating new business and engaging with our peers.
Off-line networking is one of my most valuable assets as a business. Sure, I want to tip all my contacts into my email list, and refer people to my Website at any available opportunity, but I would be missing out on a huge opportunity if I didn’t work my real-world life as much as possible.
I joined my local Chamber of Commerce and my local Rotary Club. I attend many business events, Expos, functions and launches. Recently I joined a chapter of BNI, a hugely successful global network of business owners existing for the sole purpose of promoting word-of-mouth marketing. Even though my business is very much focused on the Internet, I still like to meet my clients in person and work predominantly with in-house staff. I am a people person. Call me old-fashioned, but I prefer to engage face-to-face – at least until virtual reality evolves sufficiently into fooling my senses that I am in the same room as you – and that is still quite a long way off.
If I can work the world just like our forefathers did, then enhance all those engagements with Web technology, like collaboration tools, Web-based communication and marketing, I’ll be unstoppable.