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Friday 2 March 2018

Interested in time travel?

(To see the other posts in this series go to the March and April 2018 Blog Archive.)

A friend of mine recently posted the above spoof sign on Facebook. It made me smile; then it made me think.

Time is something we all take for granted: tick-tocking at a constant rate in the background of our lives. Except that is not really how time works for us humans. Each of us interact with time in different and very personal ways: some times are perceived as a friend, some as a foe; some times are felt as fast, some as slow; some of us prefer the future, some the past; most of us, understandably, prefer times when we won or succeeded rather than those when we lost or failed.

Our experience of time is subjective and summed up by the well-known phrase 'A watched pot never boils'.

This phrase reveals another important aspect of our personal experience of time: the more important something is to us the more we take notice of it and the time it takes to happen.

And, of course, different people will perceive different things as more important than others. We all have our own important days and events: birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, holidays; or dates for surgery, days in court, receiving life-changing results or verdicts of one kind or another. Whatever the focus, however, the time taken for them to happen can often seem to drag on and on and on. 

There are also events that many people have in common and perceive as important: families, communities and even nations look forward to cultural festivals and celebrations like Christmas and New Year; businesses and companies look eagerly towards the launch of a new product or service; governments look impatiently towards the launch of a new policy or initiative. Invariably, just like those things that are important to us individually, the time taken for these things to happen can seem very long and drawn out.

Lastly, the above sign wording (however humorously and obviously) points to another effect time has upon us: it distances us from the past and often from each other. Time carries us away from old friends and loves; it fades our memories of passed-away relatives; less personally, but almost as significantly, it separates one government regime or company Board of Directors from another.

All these differing and variously shared perceptions, preferences and distancing separations are interacting and tangling between and around us as we go through each and every moment of our lives. They constantly influence what we do and how we react to things, and this is particularly so when we work collaboratively with others (which is when it could be said that we live through not only very interesting but also highly subjective times).

When we work collaboratively with others we do so within a vortex of perceptions of time and differing moments in time that compete with each other for importance and supremacy. If we can grasp and manipulate these perceptions and moments to mutual advantage, we will enhance the effectiveness of our work and the quality and longevity of our achievements. 

Over the next months, I shall be writing about the above mentioned time perceptions and preferences and the distancing effect of being separated in time. More specifically, I will focus upon how these things influence the way we work collaboratively with others from different backgrounds (different communities, businesses, organisations and institutions, etc.)

Hopefully, when I have finished, I will have encouraged people to look at their collaborative work in a new and helpful way: through a lens fashioned to focus upon how we interact with and experience time.

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