Meaning Beats Proximity


Meaning Beats Proximity

The pause continues.

Physical time together as colleagues and collaborators has been short to non-existent for months.

We need to get used to that. We are not going ‘back to normal’ – data and insight from multiple sources points to a future of less commute, less focus on the office as a hub, perhaps 1 or 2 days physically together a week. The sooner we get used to that idea, the better we can plan for all the opportunities that holds.

We are not going ‘back to normal’

Being together – in the right way – is imperative though.

There are 2 themes that emerge about the important things we need to come together for, and these were also outlined by Andy Haldane Chief Economist and the Executive Director of Monetary Analysis and Statistics at the Bank of England – in a keynote speech he did earlier this year – from home.

Social Capital – community

Creative Capital – ideas and innovation

The time we have together will need to be

meaningful and purposeful.

When we get together we will need meaning and purpose

Although some have got this right, many so far have – understandably – just coped with what was an enforced “lift what you currently do, as it currently exists and try to do that from an un-designed spot at home… oh and with the kids there… in a global crisis”. Lifting current norms, practices and ways of working and putting it all on Zoom will not be sustainable. Layer on top of that the ongoing uncertainty, re-organisation, redundancies and loss of colleagues – this isn’t a sustainable or long-term way of working.

lift what you currently do, as it currently exists and try to do that from an un-designed spot at home… oh and with the kids there… in a global crisis

But people have experienced things they don’t want to lose, more than that – ways of working and LIVING better.


Things people don’t want to go back to.

There will be variance – some will want more time out of home than others. Some will want none.

So we need to find a way – together – to design work that has meaning, is fulfilling, is productive, sustainable and enables businesses to thrive.

We can build a better ‘new’ together

We don’t need to be physically together to find these things. Many of us have multiple examples of how 2020 has been a year of connection, community, support and creativity – because of it’s virtual nature. It’s about the intent and the meaning behind those interactions. I have made friends, colleagues and collaborators who I have never met in person. That was unimaginable to me this time last year.

2020 has been a year of connection, community, support and creativity – because of it’s virtual nature

So we need to think about intent and outcome and understand which approach within the buckets of virtual and physical are going to serve us best.

We can start building our understanding and designing solutions NOW – virtually.

We can ask people how they know they will perform at their best, what they need, how they can support business outcomes NOW. We can help people begin to build their – what the insightful and inspiring Chris Herd calls – “internal communities” – NOW (note, this isn’t about colleagues). We can build empathy and understanding across organisations NOW. We can engage people with the opportunity and excitement that personalised and asynchronous work means…. NOW.

From all this data, knowledge and inevitable engagement, we can understand how to design virtual work in the best way, AND understand when, where and how to best come together physically.

Meaning beats proximity.

[I recommend this blog by Chris Herd:]

Sometimes – no offence intended – you are not the best person to have these conversations with your teams.

This is because people might feel they have to say the ‘right thing’. They may think you have a certain view of what the future needs to look like and they are worried about holding a different view. Maybe they have ideas they think may be a bit ‘wacky’. Maybe they don’t want to speak up in front of colleagues. An external person who has no vested interest can open debate and ideas, ask the ‘obvious’ questions and challenge the norms.

I can help you.

Surfacing – Through group work, or where this isn’t suitable, one to ones, we create a safe and trusting space to ask people what is going on for them, what they need to work at their best, and what ideas they have for improvement.

Thinking Space and Idea Generation -To facilitate thinking, either as individuals or in groups. Generate and/or develop ideas, open up thinking & gain insight; allow everyone to contribute & feel part of the solution; generate consensus around meaningful action

Perspectives – A session to bring individuals together to build a basis of empathy and understanding. Share experiences & perspectives; gain appreciation & understanding; think about  & value the experience of others; agree what individuals need from each other & together; create an action plan / agreement

If you need help as a leader, I can help you design an approach to run in-house.

Thinking ahead to a meaningful day out? I am pleased to be able to offer team events.

with you,

at a location of your choice

or with my partner venue Hoburne Bashley Woodland Centre for ‘More than just a fun day out’. Reflect – Rediscover – Reset.

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