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Unplug to Resonate


Mon Aug 23 2021

Unplug to Resonate

When in doubt, go old school.

One thing I’m so excited about when it comes to this year’s ATD 2021 International Conference & Exposition coming up in Salt Lake City, Utah, is the chance to sit down in person with friends, colleagues, and strangers to talk, listen, and learn. It has been too long!


As effective as technologies such as Zoom have been in cultivating and maintaining relationships during the COVID era, nothing comes close to a face-to-face, intimate chat during a session, a meet-to-eat, or a beer in the hotel lobby.

I’m looking forward to all these “analog” conversations that we’ve been missing out on for a while. With that in mind, I’m reminded of a discussion on the concept of digital versus analog from my book Acoustic Leadership: Develop A Leadership Culture That Resonates.

Here’s a snippet:

Want to start a fight? Ask a group of music enthusiasts what sounds better, digital or vinyl. (Then leave.) Oh yes, purists will swear by their vintage collection of vinyl Led Zeppelin 78s, and with good reason—they are technically correct! Here’s a quick primer in the simplest terms I can muster:

In your typical MP3 or WAV file, the process has transpired as such: the original sound, which in itself is the definition of analog, has been captured digitally as snapshots and converted to a binary code of 1s and 0s. For CD-quality sound, that typically translates into 44.1 thousand snapshots per second at an accuracy rate of 16 bits. And yes, that sounds really good.


When you crank that jam via your Bluetooth speakers, you are now converting that digital recording of an analog file back to analog, a soundwave streaming towards your earholes. You hear a “true” reproduction of what was digitally transcribed, and it might sound killer, but it is not the soundwave of what was actually played.

In contrast, when a live performance (analog) records to vinyl, the vinyl grooves’ captured sound mirrors the music’s original waveform. And absent the presence of dust and scratches, it would playback as that authentically true sound wave of what initially occurred. Make sense? (Of course, it would sound better!)

In the analog world, assuming everything works, there is no loss of data or information! The sound has integrity.

What does this have to do with leadership, talent development, and the workplace?

In our daily lives, we often find ourselves relying on the digital world as a primary vehicle for communication. Emails, chats, texts, Slack messages—we often dismiss the analog realm for the expediency of the digital route.


And a common outcome? Much like the digital versus analog example above, despite how good the quality of our digital delivery may be, we find ourselves missing information. Context. Subtleties. Body language cues.

We wind up with gaps between what was intended and what was understood. We, in the absence of all the information, wind up filling those contextual voids with stories or applying our current emotional state, warranted or not, to the conversation. We inadvertently erode the integrity of the message and take more time to resolve issues in the long run.

The technology that was supposed to help actually made things more complicated.

The takeaway? Sometimes “old school” is the right school. If you find yourself writing and rewriting that email, text, or message to get things just right, that could be an indication that this conversation needs to happen live and analog.

I remember JD Dillon, a longtime ATD presenter and L&D expert, reminding us not to start with technology but rather with behavior. Instead of looking for a digital solution, start with the simplest solution, which often is the behavior itself. Don’t unnecessarily invest time, energy, and money in a new tech tool; instead, start with the behavior.

In this case, communicate. Old school. Analog.

I look forward to seeing you all at ATD. Feel free to stop and chat if you see me in the halls.

Let’s kick it old school. Analog.

Now go crank up some tunes. It will be good for your soul.

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