I am spending my time in New York trying to test “off-line” whether the principles behind our startup business, Climbing Fish, hold water. The key elements are seeing whether people “get” the concept, where the target audience hang out, whether there is an over saturation of connections in this age of social media – and whether getting back to good old conversations is as important as we think.

HBR - Slow ConversationLast week, John (my Climbing Fish co-founder) forwarded me an article in Harvard Business Review by Anthony K Tjan called “It’s time for a ‘Slow Conversation’ Movement”. Please do take the time to read the article – as it hits at the core of what we are trying to do with Climbing Fish. Connections are cheap – but what’s happened to those valuable conversations. Anthony expresses it eloquently. Here’s one quote that gives a flavour:-

as we begin 2013, I can’t help feeling that the proliferation of new communication channels and “smart” devices has only further fragmented and strained the flow of real conversations. It has obscured content that is worth consuming. As multi-tasking has morphed into multi-casting — that is, it is now often less about trying to do more at the same time than trying to tell more at the same time — it has all increasingly gotten in the way of what we are trying to optimize, which is connectivity. In fact, it is quite clear that in many instances it has diluted the quality and relevance of our conversations.

I read through the comments – and was struck by one in particular from Sarah V. She said:-

I love this piece! As someone whose formative years have been greatly influenced by advancements in technology (born in ’85!), I sometimes find myself balking when it’s time for meaningful face-to-face conversation, despite knowing full well that it is important and effective.

It’s not that I don’t want to speak with my friends, colleagues, clients, etc. while looking them in the eye – frankly, even phone is difficult for me sometimes – but it’s that my generation has been conditioned otherwise. It’s so easy for me to socialize face-to-face when it’s all fluff and fun, but when it’s time to have a serious conversation – whether it’s personal or work-related – nerves kick in. Perhaps because it’s too real-time, too unpredictable, too uncontrolled.

I was intrigued that someone who was 27, obviously entrepreneurial, felt that a generation had been conditioned not to have conversations. I took time to follow the link to Sarah V – and discovered that she lived in New York. Now there’s a coincidence…. Maybe we could meet and I could ask more…

Sarah (V stands for Vaynerman) was – as she said in the comment – very good on Twitter and email. She agreed to meet at my co-working space at NYC Alley. What would the conversation be like….?

It was great. Sarah is young, lively – and a very focussed entrepreneur. She ditched her job on Wall Street to run her own venture – EsVeeGroup. She explained the conditioning…

When she was in 6th grade in the mid-90s, her mum (who was quite techy) showed her the Netscape Navigator browser. Sarah got hooked on surfing the internet. As time moved on a little, AOL suddenly became the think to join up to and her teenage years were spent communicating with her friends on AOL Instant Messenger. In late teens, the cellphone arrived – and texting each other was the thing. Now, Sarah says that she feels very comfortable with technology – and is used to the ability to use short form written communication to consider and compose a response to in her own time (usually very quickly). She feels in control in this way.

Sarah is concerned on the subject – especially how our brains become re-wired with technology. She pointed me to a New York Times article in 2010 – Attached to Technology and Paying the Price – that talks about technology giving you a “dopamine squirt”. Can a “Slow Conversation” compete with that?

Sarah and I had a great conversation – her brain has not been totally rewired! I shared the vision for Climbing Fish withher. At which point, Sarah’s face went blank… She then reached for her iPad (I thought, here goes … she HAS been re-wired). She’d not gone mad – she totally got what we are doing. She just wanted to share a set of notes she had made last year about a business idea… It sounded remarkably like Climbing Fish… Here are some of the gems:-

“Networking events are so tiring and like shooting fish in a barrel no one really likes it”

“Referral/invitation only? (100% at first)”

“If you do not participate you aren’t in. Can you be “voted off the island?””

“You only want to be talking to the people that have GENUINE interest in you, support for your success and what you’re doing”

“Not anyone can change the world but everyone can change THEIR world.”

She’d seemed to have been listening in to John and my conversations….

Sarah Einstein CardEven more spooky – when we exchanged business cards… SNAP. We both had Einstein Quotes on the back of our cards! Surreal…

We’ve agreed to keep our conversation going. It’s always interesting when you feel stars align.

I headed off for a bowl of soup at the local coffee shop (The Cafe Grind on 10th Avenue – thoroughly recommended). As I came out – I noticed their A-board. Einstein again … maybe he’s trying to send us a message about Climbing Fish!

Einstein Coffee