How could we as employees, workers, students, families and friends unleash our creative powers to imagine new ways of creating human connection? I love this challenge and the world could not need it more. Everywhere you look there is data about the crisis of loneliness. But beyond the need for connection that arises from the loneliness epidemic, there is so much that we gain physiologically, psychologically and sociologically from being connected in genuine ways to other people at work and beyond.
This blog was inspired by reading about a local supermarket in Denmark (the Dutch Jumbo Supermarket in Vlijmen) that created two wonderful innovations to address the loneliness of their customers. First, they created an All Together Coffee Corner where elders could gather to enjoy their morning coffee and ask for help from volunteers from a local foundation. Second, they created a Chat Checkout line where elders (or anyone else) who wanted to talk to someone and take little longer to ring up their groceries would be welcome. Think about how your work organization could better foster connection between employees and customers, and help society along the way.
After reading the supermarket story shared by Samantha Fowles on our High Quality Connection Community of Practice Facebook page, I started searching for other great ideas that had been posted about what innovations organizations are using that inspire creative ideas about fostering connection. There were so many! For example, Kristina Workman posted a story of how Veterans Administration Hospitals have a new program where volunteers come in and interview hospital patients about their life stories. The program is part of My Life, My Story where volunteers not only conduct the life interviews, they also create a 1000-word biography that they share back with the patient, giving them a chance to elaborate and discuss further. As you can imagine, patients savor the chance to be listened to and to have someone capture their story. At the same time, the stories deepen connections to care providers and often help to improve the clinical care. Think about how this kind of story sharing practice could be used by educational institutions, social service agencies, workplaces and other kinds of organizations to foster human connection.
A third example comes from a post by Nick Hemmert on our HQCCOP page in response to a question about how to build connection on virtual teams. He offered up an article on Microsoft’s use of bots to facilitate connection with group members who are physically distant but task interdependent. The article describes how these bots were originally conceived to break the ice for chat-based productivity app teams. The bots randomly match up coworkers on any team and also use their calendars to suggest virtual or real meet up times. The bot is one solution for a range of ways organizations are developing and using different forms of technology to foster human connection.
Whether we are creating spaces for connection, fostering the sharing of information for connection, or using technology to foster opportunities for connection, we need more attention to and creative energy around how to build and sustain human connections. Why can’t we have hackathons devoted to the fostering of human connection? How about national, regional or local awards given for Connecting Innovations? How about Connection Fairs in our workplaces or schools where people share and celebrate innovative solutions around human connection? Let’s get those creative juices going! We are only limited by our beliefs about the importance of human connection and the will and energy to innovate in this important domain of human existence!
I can just imagine how we could unleash new human community building potential if we collectively set our minds to this task.