New York Times: “Social connections … are keys to happiness and health”

How do you build healthy social connections in the digital age? #VirtualDistance

We read daily now that “social connections, in a very real way, are keys to happiness and health” as a recent New York Times article puts it. At a time where we humans with our smart-phones and social media apps should be connected more than ever, we also sense a “Virtual Distance” that removed context from our digital interactions: We look into a screen that mirrors not only our own face but also projects our own experiences, assumptions, beliefs and biases into the conversation, as our brains unconsciously fill in the gaps and provides a (wrong) context to the world of the other person that in return ‘makes sense’ to us – it just is not the reality on the other end.

As a result, we have a distorted relationship with the other person and a skewed social connection. This also affects our behavior based on wrong information. In our private life, this may lead to us mutually and unknowingly drifting away as friends, which may fuel the feeling of isolation over time. At work, there are significant and measurable consequences that can have a devastating impact on our relationships with colleagues as well as on critical business outcomes across a range of indicators; including trust, innovative capabilities, employee engagement, leadership effectiveness and many more.

The Virtual Distance Model brings these issues into awareness, gives us a language to precisely express the issues as well as a metrics and tools on how to lower the Virtual Distance surrounding us every day. Managing Virtual Distance successfully holds not only the keys to happiness and health but also to measurably better business outcomes.


Author: Stephan Klaschka

Stephan Klaschka is an awarded innovation executive, C-level consultant, Intrapreneur, and serial entrepreneur with over 25 years of international work experience. He held various senior business operations, strategy, regulatory compliance and innovation roles with Boehringer Ingelheim, leaving as Director of Global Innovation Management and Strategy. In this first-of-its-kind position, Stephan's work was central to the new growth rejuvenation strategy as a catalyst to initiate and drive pivotal innovations, leadership development, and disruptive and digital transformation across the Boehringer Ingelheim group worldwide. He has recently served as interim CEO and COO of startup companies in Europe and the United States. Stephan holds Masters Degrees in Computer Science, Management, and Business Administration as well as advanced degrees in Strategy, Innovation, and Leadership from leading schools in Europe and the United States. PMP certified. He has published extensively and created award-winning workshops on topics including intrapreneurship, healthcare, pharma, and new technologies. Stephan currently consults independently out of New York.

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