Technology can help you accomplish a wide range of business tasks without needing to engage other people to get them done. But that doesn’t mean that it’s the way you should use it.
In a past life, I worked for the 2000 Sydney Olympics writing speeches for the CEO of the Paralympic Games. Most of the speeches I wrote back then revolved around the same ?theme: interdependence.
The CEO would often explain to audiences that when you’re a child, you’re dependent upon your parents for all your needs. As you grow up, you learn to take control of your own life and become independent.
Most people believe independence is the end game. However, as the CEO would point out, independence is only a step along the journey of interdependence. Working with other people and developing relationships of mutual ?co-operation is a higher form of psychological and social development, she would say.
This philosophy was an eye-opener to me at the time. It’s what the idea of community is all about – people working together to enrich their lives and accomplish more than they each could on their own.
Despite this epiphany, when I started my small business several years later, I forgot what she’d taught me. While I engaged contractors to perform some of the work, I focused on doing as much as possible myself – client liaison, project management, invoicing, marketing and sales, even bookkeeping.
It made sense in the early days, particularly as there were cash flow issues while the business was being established. But I eventually got to the point where I couldn’t do it all. I was struggling to hold all those tasks and do them properly. It took a toll on my physical and mental health and my personal relationships. I realised I needed to enlist the help of others to keep my business going and growing.
Technology makes it easier to reduce our reliance on human intervention. Meanwhile, our postmodern individualistic society tells us that it’s all about us. That’s not true: you’re better off and will get better outcomes by relying on other people.
As psychologist Evan Hadkins writes, interdependence works on both a personal and a business level. ‘It is common for both people to feel enriched after a good conversation. An innovator, businessperson and marketing whiz can do more together than either one separately.’
Ironically, while technology promotes our independence, it can also facilitate our interdependence.
In his renowned but controversial book The 4-Hour Workweek, Timothy Ferriss explains how to outsource most of your life to focus on what you want to do. I say the book is controversial because many people – including me – disagree with how far he’s taken the outsource model.
While it’s a great read for overworked businesspeople, I don’t think you can work as little as he does without being completely self-focused and ruthless. That defeats the aim of interdependence, which is based on forming relationships with the people you depend on – as well as you depending on them, they’re also depending on you!
I’m really grateful for the lesson I learned about interdependence; I’m just sorry it took so long for it to sink in!