Learning social connectivity in a virtual world


Six Degrees Executive partnered with Tomorrow Architects’ CEO and founder Tom Harkin for an interactive online session on social connectivity in a virtual world. Having worked closely with Tom and the Tomorrow Architects' team over the years, we knew the basics of his philosophy on the importance of building ‘social capital’ – but there has been a more apt time in history for us to not only discuss the importance of human connection and vulnerability – but to live it.

The session was a time to be reflective on not only how we operate as individuals, but how we are able to create meaningful bonds in a virtual environment. Tom delves into not only how we do this, but why we do this. Here are three key takeaways on the how and why of human connection from the session.

Building human connection

We often do not dig beyond surface level connections when it comes to creating human connection. A simple, “how are you?” can be such a throwaway line that merely skims the surface and misses the opportunity to build a deeper connection. It is often more challenging than we think to slow down and ‘throw the rock into the lake’ rather than skimming it along the surface.

Tom reminded us of the importance of two things when it comes to human connection: listening and sharing. Sharing is often the hard part; as we are filled with doubts of, “Am I oversharing? Is this relevant? Does this matter?” These questions can mar our ability to be open, but sharing can often result in reward.

In a virtual world, connection is even harder. We are given the gift and curse of the mute button. We can turn off our screens and our sound and easily be a bystander. But perhaps it is time we turned ourselves off mute. It might seem overwhelming at first – but the connections that we can make will be worth the minor moments of discomfort at first.

The essentials of emotion

When we are able to draw back those barriers that we have only created for ourselves, social connection can become emotional. Throughout our lives, we have almost been trained to avoid giving too much detail, particularly when in a professional setting. We are often conscious about people’s time, people’s opinions, and about what our vulnerability might mean.

But during the pandemic, many of our boundaries have been removed, as working from home brought us into each other’s lives - meeting families, partners, dogs, cats, birds, and flatmates. 

Valuing vulnerability

Why does openness matter? What do we achieve when we are more willing to bare ourselves? Vulnerability starts at the top. People can often be convinced that in order to be successful we have to either achieve perfection or be perceived as perfect. But modern workplaces that can both admit and then learn from mistakes are more adaptable, willing to grow, and most importantly willing to listen to and benefit from feedback.

For too long we have been predisposed to be sheltered and closed-off and openness was not celebrated in ‘professional’ settings. But there is such value in throwing away these preconditions and bringing vulnerability into our workplaces. It may be a small price to pay for minor awkwardness at the time, but it will be worth its weight in gold when it comes to innovation, cohesive teams and most importantly, building deeper connections. We may be apart, but we are not alone.

For more information on Tom Harkin and Tomorrow Architects’ workshops and programs, visit their website.​