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"I'd Like to Place a Collect Call..." (Again) (153/365)

Recently, I've found myself in numerous conversations about "the world today".

Different days, different people, different settings. Same general topic.

This idea of automating everything we do seems to be on people's minds.

Some, in defense of the practice. And others, wanting to go back to a simpler time.

Practical. Nostalgic. Progressive. Futuristic.

The range of viewpoints touches on all of these ideas.


One conversation was about how "the boss" still hand-writes checks to employees. A different conversation was about how boss leaves an envelope with cash, stapled to a cork board in his office. "Checking books out" of the library also came up. In the old days, there was "window shopping". That led to how we used to do things like going to Blockbuster on a Friday night, with hopes that the movie we wanted wasn't already taken out by someone else with the same idea. And then there were payphones. First, a dime, later a quarter. And the art of "the collect call" where you'd use the operator as an intermediary between you and your mom, to find out what time to be home. Those were the days...when you didn't have a dime in your pocket, but could somehow still find out how long until dinner.

"Be kind, please rewind" was our biggest responsibility back then, it seemed.

This time of year, talking to different people through one's own personal past and present, provides us a glimpse of then and now, and gets us thinking about the future as well.


Today, we get fresh groceries or ready-to-cook meals, delivered to our doorstep. We can have a car take us anywhere we want. And we can have a complete stranger pick our food up and bring it to our house. Order coffees through "the app". And practically anything legal ordered from the internet and delivered to our doorstep, within hours of any holiday.

Now don't get me wrong, I've done all of these things one or several times, and have appreciated the convenience and the entrepreneurial aspect of these sorts of things. While I'm not sure which side I fall on, I will admit, I'm a bit worried about how this will all turn out.

Automate most things/everything? (Ok.)

Add efficiency, quality, simplicity? (Not sure.)

Reduce/replace human interaction? Or create more space for it, as it evolves? (We'll see.)

I'm writing this post to process my thinking a bit. I can't guarantee this will be worth reading.

A Few Questions/Concerns on My Mind

  • What will become of "the phone call"?

The purpose was to finalize a plan. Now, when a phone call is at its best, it solves a small or simple problem or extends an invitation to sit down to unpack and solve a problem together.

  • What will become of email?

The purpose was a quick message or to document/remind/confirm details of a conversation. Now it seems to be more like a phone call gone to voicemail. Or worse, a vehicle for "conversation", without facial expressions, body language, or a clear tone of voice.

  • What will become of "the meeting"?

We learned early on in our work lives the importance of meetings. Face-to-face, discussing what's got to get done, getting the marching orders, and then executing the plan. With phone calls and emails seeming to be "tools in transition" in addition to other media being created and accessed to "increase efficiency", one has to wonder the fate of "the meeting".

It's funny to me how today, someone can (and will) point out how I use Twitter and keep a daily blog. The irony isn't lost of me. But I still do love a good phone call, a properly written email, and a good old fashioned, meeting. And as far as a cash envelop as payment for the kid working at the local small business, let's keep that going for as long as we possibly can.

And maybe someday, forgetting to rewind will once again be the biggest problems we face.

Click here to visit the Learning Leadership 365 site, where you may read all posts I've written.


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