...identifying those we cannot help, handing them on to someone who might be able to afford assistance, or in the extreme, just moving on anyway. Why waste time on helpless cases, or those where you do not possess the skills or knowledge required?
I'm not advocating a devil takes the hindmost policy here, but I would like to become far more efficient with my own time and energy. Charitable instincts always seem to get in the way. Perhaps the ideal algorithm should look like this:
- Can I help? = IFF Yes - Then continue dialogue to conclusion
- Can I help? = IFF No - Then find someone who can - connect the two and walk away fast
- Can I help? = Yes + No = Maintain contact and help wherever possible in the chain of change
The big stumbling block is deciding the appropriate course of action up front. And whatever the difficulty this decision produces in the real world seems to be amplified 10-fold in the virtual one. But this is where social networking kicks in. It has made vetting companies and people easier and increases the scope for handing the contact on to someone else.
So, in the same way meetings tend to expand to fill the time available, I find all my spare time consumed by more of the same. This issue might turn out to be really positive in that I am processing more minds and companies. I just hope I am not offending more at the same time - but then again, that risk might be a part of the price we have to pay.
Working in New York desensitised me because the pace of business and the lack of subtlety seemed to have been ahead of the virtual world - even 10 years ago. Business and life there is brisk, objective, to the point and with little sympathy or politeness. Some would see it as brutal but at least they take the trouble to connect you to "someone who can" as they quickly walk away.
I have an abiding memory of a New York meeting with a banker who stopped our lunch halfway through the first course with the statement, "You're talking to the wrong man". He then quickly pulled out a business card, scribbled down some contact details, handed it to me with the words, "Contact John. He's your man".
He then stood up, we shook hands and he walked away leaving me alone for lunch and with a bill to pay. Needless to say, the meeting with John later that day worked out and, indeed, he was the right man. A replay of that identical meeting in Europe would most likely have seen the food consumed, the bill paid and no further connection.
On the internet we don't have to pay for lunch, sensitivities don't have to be so blunt and the opportunity to connect and pass on is far greater. All we have to do is take the trouble to exercise that opportunity more often.
Peter Cochrane is an engineer, scientist, entrepreneur, futurist and consultant. He is the former CTO and head of research at BT, with a career in telecoms and IT spanning more than 40 years.