Of Young Leaders and Being Offline...

CoCreate recently contributed to a short book on Culture Change in the Digital Age - if you're interested in learning more about this you can download the ebook for free on our client Brilliant Noise's website: http://brilliantnoise.com/what-we-do/culture

But whilst technology brings us closer together, it can also push us further apart. As CoCreate are all about social change through collaboration, we definitely see the power of technology in facilitating connectedness. However, I've increasingly begun to realise that technology can easily push us apart. For me the most powerful connection we can have is face-to-face. Nothing can replace the power of how we respond to the body language, energy and eye contact of other people - often things we lose when we rely on a technology interface. And yet so often many of us find ourselves engaged with technology - especially our phones - whilst all around us are far more powerful opportunities for real human interactions. Indeed Benedit Cumberbatch just made headlines recently for challenging theatre go-ers to stop filming and just experience his performance as Hamlet in London. Perhaps there is also a message in that for us?

Increasingly when we facilitate events, conferences and leadership programmes we really challenge people to be there. In fact, what's remarkable is how often people really just want permission to get off their phone! The recent Manchester City Youth Leadership programme really brought that home for me - 30 Young Leaders from around the world, all sporting smart phones and of course desperate to post, tweet, blog and share their experiences with their networks. And yet...when we invited them to come up with some principles for the week ahead, 'no phones' was one of the first suggestions, something which everyone was willing to sign up to. The result? A deep, incredibly powerful shared experience, where everyone was truly able to be present for powerful conversations about the social change projects and programmes they represented. And, from what I could tell, there was still a huge, huge amount of social media content generated in free time, so the experience most definitely got out there into the wider world.

Having these kind of experiences has made me revise my own use of technology, and particularly my phone. It stays in my pocket for longer, does not get used after a watershed time and is about to be replaced in our bedroom by an actual alarm clock, to prevent me fiddling on emails and social media late at night. These are certainly not earth-shattering revelations or major life changes, but perhaps it is these small, incremental changes that we are challenged to make as leaders. Certainly if you attend a CoCreate event, don't be surprised if we ask you to keep your phone switched off - we hope you'll find that more exciting things happen as a result.

Andy Caldwell, August 2015