03/11/2013 03:18 pm ET Updated May 11, 2013

Beyond Friends and Followers: Getting Unstuck From Transactions and Moving to True Connections and Communities

By Jim Finkelstein with Ayelet Baron

This blog originally appeared in a work by Ayelet Baron, "Getting Unstuck: Living Every Second in Our 24/7 Life." Ayelet and Jim are collaborating on and celebrating the Age of Simplifying.

We used to live in a world where bigger was better. More was more. Having the latest and greatest car/toaster/DVD player/vacuum cleaner/toothpaste was drilled into our heads as a must to fit in. Advertising budgets poured into convincing us to buy the new and improved version of the product or service because it was both bigger and better than before. Did we not feel overwhelmed back then?

Still Overwhelmed and Seeking the Recipe

Technology enables us to link people, concepts and content together in new ways. The pace of human brain capacity is not changing at the same pace of technology. For example, employees are adopting expensive technology faster than an organization's annual plan can accommodate.

We live in a "cut and paste" world where someone else's best practice could simply work for us. About $9.6 billion a year is spent by consumers on self-help books, workshops, tools and conferences just in the US. We have been conditioned to go to events with speakers and panels. That is the cookie cutter solution to events. Which big name are we going to listen to? Who is going to talk at us and give us the recipe that we need to follow?

Think about it, you go to an event (listen to a lecture, two-day conference, off-site) and you are networking with interesting people and have some great conversations. Typically business cards are exchanged and LinkedIn connections are made. iPhones may be bumped. But then what?

Missed Opportunities for Human Connection

We have so many missed opportunities because we don't always know how to keep the conversation going after an event. And, we often even forget to bring back into our world of clutter and confusion the helpful tips and tricks that we "learned." So it is a double loss. Lessons not learned, and the humans who could help us reinforce our education have disappeared from meaningful post-event interactions. They are with the next group of people who need to listen to their wisdom.

We are still stuck in transactional event based conversations. And the tools we have today like Twitter are insufficient in translating a 140-character tweet to a purposeful interaction. In the world of Twitter, you connect based on "followers" and until hashtags emerged you were not able to connect based on interests. You may connect with someone by retweeting or responding to their tweets. To have meaningful interactions, you have to remember that you are having conversations with people and the currency is to build trusted relationships. The metrics you should be using are not how many followers or friends you have amassed but how many purposeful and meaningful relationships have you built?

The lines are blurring. Control is changing. It's technology that enables a 20-year old poet living in one of the biggest slums in the world to connect with other poets online and get feedback on his work. It provides new access to connect people with shared passions. In this era, people who have connectivity will create leadership at all levels and new forms of value. But we need to recognize the value and adapt new ways of connecting first.

Will a tool or social technology fix all your problems?

Find True Communities: From Sound Bites to Substance

Over the next few years, new platforms will emerge that will encourage connections. They will not have terms like followers or friends. They will be true communities where the value will be the people who belong to them. Most will be moderated and people will continue their conversations and build valuable connections.

What communities do you want to lead or simply be part of? Where are they?

The search for these communities will lead those who want a true human connection to bypass the sound bites of our technology today and seek the substance of meaningful conversation. This exciting journey has just begun.

Jim Finkelstein is the Founder, President and CEO of FutureSense, Inc., a management consulting firm specializing in people and organization effectiveness. Ayelet Baron is the Chief Instigator at and the former Chief Strategist on the Executive Leadership Team of Cisco Canada.

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