An HBR blog led me to the work of Karen Sobel Lojeski, who brings a background in computer science and applied mathematics to the challenges of how people work, relate and achieve across distance.

“Virtual Distance” is a sense of distance that grows when communication and interaction is largely carried out using communication technology. The practice leads to different learning patterns and it impact business performance and people’s ability to develop close personal relationships.

Dr Lojeski mathematically modelled the “virtual distance” using a Virtual Distance Index. Virtual distance has three components:

  • physical distance, such as space and time
  • operational distance, such as the problems that arise in day-to-day work
  • affinity distance, which is the human and emotional disconnection that results when team members have no have no face to face relationship with one another

In an article with Richard R Reilly, they write “The most important competencies are what we call techno-dexterity, traversing boundaries, glocalization, and authenticity. We believe these competencies support three key actions that are essential for effective leadership:

  • creating context – common context lessens affinity distance by fostering a more closely shared set of values and allowing stronger relationships to emerge as understanding grows between culturally distinct groups.
  • cultivating community – encourages engagement and creates communities of individuals who are motivated to go beyond their prescribed roles.
  • co-activating new leaders – the process by which team members become influencers and share a role in leadership beyond geographical boundaries.”

Great advice for leaders.

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