The 'Other Side' of ICT: Less Empathy – Part 1

Posted on 6th December 2016


Welcome to the Business Empathy Forum and thank you for your visit. In this post I would like to follow up on the benefits of ICT by discussing the associated costs, particularly those dealing with lost empathy. Many synergies between business and ICT are self-evident, and we are only scratching the surface of that interaction. But there is a subtle price that is often paid for those synergies: the erosion of business relationships as a result of overreliance on ICT.

The Price We Pay for Connectivity, Part 1

This erosion may manifest itself in various ways, so I will examine them through three lenses. The first is the personal: the impact that technology may have on the individual in business, on collegial relationships, and on relationships with customers and the marketplace. The second is the team: how our commitment to ICT impacts relationships within teams, and particularly virtual teams. The third lens for this analysis is the strategic: how ICT contributes to the development and perpetuation of information silos within organizations, and thus to the potential impact of such silos on strategic alignment and execution.

Reduced Personal Contact in Business Interactions
It has become something of a cliché, but as firms automate and streamline business processes, they tend to reduce or even eliminate the personal touch, that is, direct contact between people in either face-to-face or voice-to-voice form. This downsizing of the human element often makes sense from a cost-savings or mistake-reduction perspective, but too much of a good thing can become a bad thing, and too much technology can be a turnoff for customers and colleagues. In fact, when organizations leverage information technology to an excessive degree they may begin to lose their humanism, and thus their capacity to deal with ‘real people’, whether colleagues, customers, or other stakeholders.

Isolation, Workplace Dynamics, and Missed Opportunities
Despite the benefits of working remotely, there may be drawbacks such as the lack of oversight and diminished productivity away from the workplace, depending upon the individual. Employees may suffer from feelings of social isolation when no longer interacting regularly with others at the place of work, or there could be negative changes in the work atmosphere back at the office when certain individuals are no longer present. We should also consider missed opportunities for brainstorming and exchanging ideas, which are often opportunities for insights, creativity, and team building.

Once again we seem to be presented with trade-offs that offer a choice between efficiency and cost savings on one side and human interaction and collaboration on the other. Are these the only two choices we have? Let’s think about that.

Good luck, and until next time…