Where Facebook falters ..

Facebook has revolutionized the way we communicate, but not without limitations. According to research, social networking sites like Facebook and LinkedIn are great at two things. They help us keep in touch with existing friends. Secondly, they allow us to reintegrate our networks so that, rather than having several disconnected subsets of friends, we can build one virtual community.

The research by Robin Dunbar who is a professor of evolutionary anthropology at Oxford shows that making new friends require considerable emotional investment and face-to-face interaction. He says, “emotional closeness declines by around 15 percent a year in the absence of face-to-face contact, so that in five years someone can go from being an intimate acquaintance to the most distant outer layer of your friends”.

The idea of Spotluch is to make people meet in person. In that respect, Spotlunch is a nice compliment to existing social networks.

The new formula for power networking – Make new friends through Spotlunch and keep in touch with them through Facebook.

Rx for excellence

If you are looking for a definite pathway to excellence, here is one that would work for kids and executives alike. Select, Connect, Play, Grapple and Grow and then Shine. This is what Edward M. Hallowell, a chid psychiatrist, prescribes in a recent Harvard Business Review article.

In summary, Select means finding the right job that suits your interests and skills. It is a common sense approach but a few people are able to do this.

Connect is the next step, which is plugging into the larger community and tapping into the power of other people.

Play is imaginatively involving oneself in the work. The goal is reaching a state in which a person is so caught up in what she’s doing that she loses self-consciousness.

Grapple and Grow involves tackling the challenges and successfully overcoming them. Every time you work hard to solve a difficult problem, you increase your mental performance.

Finally, you need to appease the reward center of the brain. Shine is about making sure that good work is appreciated.

At Spotlunch, we have a vested interest in the ‘connect’ aspect of this pathway.

As Hallowell says “.. positive connection in business is slipping away. Colleagues often work in different cities, countries, and continents, and, thanks to technology, even those working in the same building may not speak face-to-face for months or years. At the same time, the recent economic crisis has created a climate of fear, anxiety, and mistrust. As a result, disengagement, one of the chief causes of underachievement and depression, is on the rise, and that can have big personal implications.”

It is clear that positive connections at work and interaction with colleagues increase productivity and engagement.

Enabling more and more face-to-face interaction is our goal. We believe this will help individuals reduce stress and reach excellence in their professional and personal lives.

A case for face-to-face

Can everyone on earth meet each other? Absolutely a tall order. How about beginning with meeting your neighbors? Or may be colleagues? You never know, you might find something in common… something that we can all share… it could be to collaborate on an idea or meet an important contact .. or may be to get that referral or just to share a  funny story.

Psychologists affirm that  humans are hard-wired for social interaction. A research published in the online journal, Public Library of Science One shows that twins start communicating as embryos as early as 14 weeks into the pregnancy.

Getting out and meeting people is known to have proven health benefits as well

Networking experts would say – get to know as many people as you can.  So, meeting people is good for you. But why is it becoming difficult?

In one sense, though we are living in an increasingly connected world, we are more disconnected than we have ever been. Technology demands a lot of our time and we tend to hide behind it.  Social networking sites like Facebook are great to keep in touch with our existing friends and sharing pictures; however they take away from valuable face-to-face human interaction.

Time is at a premium. We are constantly trying to manage time between job, family, career and other commitments.

In addition making new friends takes a little initiative. It takes some courage to make that new connection and find someone with common interests. This may not come instinctively to all.

Can these barriers be overcome?

We cannot lengthen our day. But we could find a convenient time. Everyone has to eat lunch (yes… there maybe exceptions). Could we transform lunch into something more? An opportunity to make new contacts face-to-face.

There is no way we can magically increase peoples’ unwillingness to make the first connection. But we could utilize technology to help make it easy by finding the right match. This will also increase the possibility of building a strong relationship.

The bigger solution lies in activating our inherent need for social interaction, which goes back to our ancestors who would sit around a fire to share a meal or a story.

There may be times when these basic instincts are subdued. We see instances where technology drives us in directions that are alien to human instincts. But eventually we find our way back. Examples include the shift from mass farming to organic farming and the trend of people biking to work while their cars are parked at home.

This might be the time to curb the virtual experience and take back the virtues of real face-to-face interaction between people.

Organizations, especially in the knowledge based areas, can largely benefit from these interactions. More collaboration often translates to more productivity and innovation, which is the life blood of any modern organization.

In a 2009 global survey of 2,211 Harvard Business Review subscribers, 95 percent of respondents viewed in-person meetings as a key to success in building long-term relationships. Specifically, face-to-face meetings were seen as most effective for negotiating important contracts, interviewing senior staff for key positions, and understanding and listening to important customers.

Helping people meet face-to-face and build strong relationships is a win-win formula for individuals as well as organizations.

Our hope is to make this easier and fun.

We present spotlunch.