While I am on a pilgrimage walk on the Camino de Santiago (St. James Way) in Spain, I have asked some of the most committed and courageous faith-driven business leaders I know to guest contribute to Purposed worKING. Enjoy! – Rusty
“Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of His return is drawing near.”
It seems like we read about it almost daily—a small tech start-up is purchased for billions of dollars by a tech behemoth. One recent deal that garnered widespread publicity was the acquisition of Oculus VR by Facebook. Oculus is the maker of the Oculus “Rift” virtual reality (VR) headset that promises to finally deliver on the promise of VR that has always seemed just out of reach since the dawn of sci-fi movies and Star Trek. When you consider Oculus’ product and Facebook’s global reach as a social network, you can picture a virtual community on a scale that is hard to fathom.
Oculus’ VR technology is allegedly so advanced that the author of a January 2014 Gizmodo review of the product exclaimed in the article’s headline, “I Wore the New Oculus Rift and I Never Want to Look at Real Life Again”(!) (My emphasis).
Wow. That’s a bold statement—a technology so powerful that it might tempt humans to replace real life with virtual reality. But if this is a possibility, perhaps it’s important to ask: What are the social consequences of replacing real life with virtual reality? What are the consequences to a work culture influenced by virtual tools such as video conference, and eventually—virtual reality?
I’m currently working on a special project team for my employer. Ordinarily, we do a weekly conference call or video conference to touch base on project milestones and work through outstanding issues. We’re able to do this because our employer—like every other modern business—has invested in various forms of connected and wireless technology that allows us to communicate no matter where we are.
Surely, there are certain advantages, including cost savings and efficiency. That said, have you ever found yourself incredibly frustrated on a conference call, video conference, WebEx, or in an e-mail exchange with colleagues or clients? The truth is, a lot can be lost in translation, and we’re not often as good at communicating virtually as we are in-person, where we can read body language and build rapport. Nuance and context are often casualties of these kinds of muted exchanges. How efficient is it, really, if everyone hangs up the phone feeling as though the others didn’t understand their point of view?
Recently, I traveled for a day trip to San Francisco for some client meetings for the project team I am on. In just 5 hours, we did more to build trust and coalesce around the shared goals and vision for our project than we had accomplished in 4 months of weekly 90-minute phone calls. Even better, we ended our time together with a casual lunch on a sunny patio with gentle breeze that allowed us to soak in the real world around us. Simply put, we had acknowledged our humanity and innate desire for community, and in doing so, had been incredibly productive in a business sense. Points were made clearly, differences were bridged, and voices were heard. We made progress.
It’s tempting to go all-in on technology, as Facebook did, based on the noble promises of new modes of communication. Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook imagines a VR world where you could be “enjoying a courtside seat at a game, studying in a classroom of students and teachers all over the world, or consulting a doctor face-to-face—just by putting on your goggles in your home.”
Surely, technology can be used for good. But as Christians, we should know better than to go all-in on technology. As God ordained in Genesis 2, and as Jesus taught us during His earthly ministry, we were meant to be in community. Real community. The kind of community where crowds gather to hear, feet are washed, miracles are performed, and trespasses are forgiven.
So often, we fire off a quick email or text message in the name of efficiency. It’s worth pondering that while these new tools such as virtual reality carry the promise of improved communication, they can also lose a lot in translation. It’s also worth considering that in Jesus’ teachings, He intentionally sought out human interaction. His ministry was quite literally, hands-on. Perhaps He was on to something, and perhaps we’d be well-served to intentionally seek opportunities to build community with our colleagues and clients just as He built community—in the flesh. And perhaps that’s good for business.
Reference: Hebrews 10: 24-25
Working husband and dad, trying to figure it all out