Business as usual: A twist on Moore’s Law

Most of us are at least vaguely familiar with Moore’s Law, the observation by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore that the number of transistors on integrated circuits doubles roughly every two years. Moore described this trend in a paper he wrote in 1965, and it has pretty much held true since then, driving exponential improvements in digital electronics and changing our lives with ever-faster, more portable and more powerful devices and applications for them.

I bring this up because I’ve often wondered if there’s a law applicable to communications technology: that every advancement – cell phones, smart phones, email, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc. – reduces the value we place on personal encounters. I doubt it’s provable, but I bet it’s demonstrable.

We’re simply more accessible to each other now – instantly reachable in most cases – so it would make sense that we would take our communications with each other more for granted.

By contrast, anyone over 30 can probably recall the joy of getting a hand-written letter from a friend or a loved one – or the patience required in waiting for the mailman to deliver such a letter you know is en route.

Same thing with the telephone. Anyone else remember the excitement of getting a long-distance call from, say, your grandparents, and having to wait your turn behind a line of parents and siblings for your chance to talk to them? And all the while your parents are calculating the cost of the long-distance bill and urging you to say goodbye till next month or whenever?

I lived in Durango as a kid, out in the country, and we had a six-party line, meaning six households shared one phone line. It was a common occurrence to pick up the phone to make a call but have to wait until someone from one of the other households was finished jabbering away. My older sister and I always thought it would be great to sneak into one of these conversations and try to impersonate one of the callers, to gain use of the phone:

“Well, it’s been great talking to you, but I’ve got to run. Talk to you later.” Don’t know if that would have worked. We never tried it.

I thought about these things as we prepared this January 2013 issue of ColoradoBiz; actually not about the drawbacks of communications advancements – because they’re dwarfed by the spectacular benefits – but about the great balance of tech savvy and value placed on interpersonal relationships exhibited by the people featured in this month’s magazine.

For example, the profile on Glenn Jones, one of six new Colorado Business Hall of Fame inductees, describes his mission to leverage education with technology, first with educational programming on TV and more recently with Jones International University, the first fully online university to receive accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.

Education, Jones says, is the great equalizer. And he’s using technology to democratize education. “We can now connect the great repositories of knowledge within educational institutions and mix it up with free enterprise,” he says.

Our annual 25 Most Powerful Salespeople feature describes a number of standouts who, while superbly tech-enabled in most cases, express more concern about the quality of their relationships than the quantity, and when they did bring up technology it was about its role in nurturing relationships, not just making them more convenient.

One who stands out because he’s a top producer who didn’t even cite communications technology or social media – though no doubt he utilizes it – is the Neenan Co.’s Michael Curtis, who specializes in developing rural hospitals and advising physician groups on facility development.

“What drew me to it was that both physician groups and rural hospitals aren’t in the business of building facilities,” Curtis said. “They don’t know what they don’t know, and they look for guidance. I can bring about that guidance.”

Jennifer Chang, another of this issue’s Most Powerful Salespeople, expressed a similar sentiment.

“First and foremost, make sure you’re listening to your customer,” said Chang, a strategic account manager for Cisco Systems. “Every customer’s environment is different, and it’s almost never a ‘one size fits all’ solution.

“I ultimately strive to become a trusted adviser to every one of my customers,” she said. “This doesn’t happen overnight. But it certainly is a culmination of multiple interactions and conversations, where honesty is of paramount value.”

Curtis and Chang are proof that in an increasingly high-tech world, business is still a high-touch endeavor.