Relationships matter as much as technology

October 22, 2010

There is a pattern in two major events that occurred this month:– 33 miners were rescued— in a breathtakingly heroic effort in Chile and, at the other end of the hemisphere,– Calgary elected a new mayor. What they have as a common theme is the credit the media gave to the technology that led to the success of both endeavors.

In Chile, amazing machines brought 33 men and a few rescuers to the surface. In Calgary, an almost unknown professor with about 1% popular support when he entered the race used electronic devices to raise his popularity high enough to sweep the competition. At least, those were the stories that made the news.

The better and mostly untold story is about the relationships of collaboration and consensus decision making that created the conditions for success in both cases.

The 33 men in the mine shafts, after initial trial and error about how to get along in extraordinarily harsh circumstances, self organized their lives underground and averted interpersonal disaster. When the technology found them, they had figured out how to survive as a group. The new mayor of Calgary understood the technology was only a tool for policy and platform content. He had something to say that was worth hearing and social media and networking was how to get out his good messages.

Bottom line: the technology is good to have, but it isn’t the whole story. Without the tools of interpersonal relationships and consensus decision making, which supported and made the technology fit the situations, both stories might have ended differently.

We still need to have our own resilience, conflict management, and interpersonal relationships skills. We might never run for office or be trapped by forces beyond our control. Yet, each day we have challenges that technology can’t fix and our skills can.

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