From digital to X-Day – Analog meetings for community building

Analog meeting forms as tools to share knowledge and build trust

The article takes as its starting point what the digital transformation is doing to society. The profound changes in which we find ourselves are hardly comprehensible for the individual. There is therefore a need for analog exchange and for learning from one another. Individuals are increasingly coming together in real places where they can meet and, in exchange with others, master the digital transformation and identify spaces for action. A spirit of openness characterizes exchange and learning from and with others. Simple and repeatable forms have emerged that can be applied without effort – for example, X-Days.

Dear Readers Today I would like to introduce you to what digitalization is “doing” to us, and what we can do about it. Correctly understood: we can do something to keep our heads up in the midst of the maelstrom of the digital. And yet, we can and should benefit from the digital transformation and be inspired to do something new. But without feelings of being at the mercy of it.

Surely you know the key data of the current digital transformation:

  • Actions are shifting to the digital space: we use smartphones and apps.
  • Customer loyalty via tracking and the collection of information determine our digital buying behavior. This is evidenced by booming online retailing.
  • New (digital) business models have emerged that make conventional products and manufacturers obsolete – who still knows Kodak, the once globally powerful photo technology company?

Only those who successfully manage the transformation will still be on the market tomorrow: this is how haufe umantis has managed the change; likewise fuji: both groups have brought forth new products and manufacturing methods and a new one. They have moved away from traditional photography and from traditional paper printing.

To make the change in which we are moving tangible, I like to refer to an insightful exposition of what digitization is now changing in our world. For this I refer to an important book, but written purely in sociological German, by Professor Armin Nassehi of the University of Munich (Sample: Theory of Digital Society, C.H. Beck, Munich 2019). Nassehi is one of the new sociologists trying to analyze this social change in depth.

What sociologists say

Summarized in ponderous sociologist’s German, his analysis is as follows:

  1. Conventional routines, such as price fixing, are suspended because customers find out the best prices from price portals.
  2. Digitization is leading to conventional business models being undermined. UBER instead of cabs. GoogleAds instead of newspaper ads. Once powerful companies such as Kodak disappear completely if they do not manage to reinvent themselves.
  3. Linking data enables a different benefit than exposing it in its original context. Linking data enables more targeted communication for a specific purpose. This datacan reveal patterns of our actions that know more about us than we would like. The question arises as to what we even still decide on our own (without being influenced by data generated from us and for us).
  4. With a purpose-related use of data (even from publicly accessible data), opinions can be manipulated in a targeted manner via the setting of topics, (dis)information activities, etc. see the debates about influencing elections.
  5. Since data “accomplish something” by themselves, i.e. their automated exploitation, the value of the work of the individual productive human being decreases. This has implications for the world of work and existing social systems.
  6. In addition: scientific investigations can become superfluous if data come to new conclusions on their own.
  7. But: automated decisions can also be “wrong”, e.g. if the input data is faulty or an algorithm is “wrong”. This leads to entirely new debates and ultimately to the question of ethics in dealing with data.

Welcome to the new world of new confusion!

Some points call for clarification for society as a whole (introduction of a basic income, for example) or for regulation (ensuring protection against misuse of data to a large extent). In everyday life, however, it is a matter of reflection, and individuals are also called upon to reinvent themselves. Am I still marketable with my workforce? Can our organization move successfully in the new digital world (applies to NPOs). How do we still achieve productivity in the future?

The real working environment counts more and more

In fact, much moves “to the net,” but not necessarily everything. There is one area that is excluded from this. There is a longing for the analog, for genuine coming together, feeling people and listening intimately.

For some time now, there has been a trend to redesign workplaces; to allow more togetherness, shorter distances. These are driven by the desire to bring people together and also to get closer to the human need for exchange: You could call this a kind of re-humanization of the working world: The need for rest as well as for exchange is met. What is always important here is the specific place where people meet: this is evidenced by the great importance of café stations, the new office worlds in large companies. This goes as far as the Novartis campus, where it is a matter of course and welcome to visit the numerous indoor and outdoor cafés. In many companies, internal “arenas” and “marketplaces” have been created where people meet. Part of this – often – is that this time is considered working time. But this trend is also continuing outside the individual company. This is evidenced by the almost booming co-working environments that are increasingly emerging – not only in cities – but also in rural areas. What more could a man or woman want? Working with someone. We therefore speak of community creation. These are often initiated online (advertised, names and profiles are submitted), but the crowning glory in each case is the real get-together, where there is often a bit of a party atmosphere, with food snacks and drinks.

The start-up scene and innovation promotion forums in particular also work with this form of community. The rapid spread of booking apps such as “meet-up” and “Event-Pride” also bears witness to this. There, you can effortlessly sign up and – especially – register with interests and find “your” community. A kind of fusion of the services of “LinkedIn” and “Facebook” with the declared aim of meeting physically, i.e. analogously

From digital everyday life to analog chilling

What is done there? At such meetings you meet new people. As a rule and as often as possible – always new people. Hence the name tags and the widespread “you” culture. The idea is to make it easy to get in touch. The process of getting together is made as simple and threshold-free as possible. A meeting room is often an office – a collaborative one, of course. Chairs are uncomplicatedly arranged there, or a room of an already existing forum serves as a meeting place. For example, one of the many impact hubs-a worldwide network of innovation incubators where people meet, startups lounge, and meeting space exists. These are usually third-party funded by foundations, etc. In the purpose of using existing space, these places can often be used for free or for little fee. The rule is that you bring your own catering and that the effort is kept small: Dishes are put away, furniture is put back. As in the private sector, there is usually no entrance fee or it is kept low. As few hurdles as possible, as much community as possible. There is no regular attendance requirement – you come when you are interested. Administrators or moderators act voluntarily and these give a minimal setting like a topic. Agile approach for participants – coming, testing, coming back or not coming back is okay.

There are only a few rules, but they must be followed.

  • Everyone is ready to make a contribution. That is, one “shows” oneself. At least to the extent that you explain what special interest you bring to this evening/lunchtime/morning.
  • Spontaneous participation is welcome: one contributes with one’s own content and experience. One shares.
  • A “main” talk or input leads into a topic-based exchange. These inputs are usually free of charge.
  • What is spoken is confidential and one deals with each other in a conducive way: not boundaries and rejections or bossiness (I know better) are asked for, but exchange, openness for new things, learning.

X-Day as a conference format

X-Days are a special form of analog community meeting. Like much of what we are talking about here, they originated in IT development. However, they have now become popular far beyond that, but are still quite little known.

How an X-Day works

Announce: The invitation is as broad as possible. I.e. across an entire unit or organization.

Space: The meeting space where the X-Day begins should be as large as possible, but may be largely informal. A foyer, cafeteria with some space will do just fine. There will be many people only at the beginning, then those interested will go to workshops; those who have already seen it will go to work normally.

Organization and other spaces: what is needed is a variety of places where small groups can meet. These can also be largely informal.

Content: The key is that virtually no content needs to be prepared. People act quickly and in an agile manner. The organizing persons prepare flipcharts or other templates at the beginning (in the largest room) with the available rooms and times how long each workshop is to be held there. The rest is easy: all participants who want to contribute (sharing!) write down what they want to offer and when. The contents are completely free. They range from discussing new software, the mission statement and possible new implementations to soft topics or discussing hobbies – i.e. special skills and passions. On X-Days, there are also improv theater groups, bicycle tinkering along with workshops on e-learning, leadership issues.

Optional input speeches or closing meetings (with snacks/drinks) can form the framework.

In addition to the daily exchange in the company, such analog forms increasingly form the basis of a familiar togetherness, where people show themselves, help each other and learn from each other. The goal is the appreciation of the individual and the creation of value for all. A nice development in the maelstrom of digital transformation. Just give it a try!

The motto is: we are IN THE CHANCE – BE the change.

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