As originally published by David Sable on Linkedin.
Social Distancing is the dichotomy of our times. It comprises two competing and polar opposite concepts—one existential: social, the DNA-driven need we have as human beings to connect, to see each other face to face, to break bread, share a coffee, to hug. The second is a product of our times, and is very physical, immediate, in the moment: distancing. It is the need, in fact, compulsory government mandate, to stay at least six feet apart from each other to limit the spread of the virus.
However, a new dynamic has emerged from this collision of competing needs, which I’ve named the, “Geometry of Social Distancing.” And, like all good geometry, it’s an axiom based on understanding that the insight its driving could be key to successful marketplace recovery.
The Geometry of Social Distancing begins with a point in space: you, for example. We then add another point…say, me. Six feet separates us in a straight line. Simple. Then, we add a friend, and now we have a triangle—6 feet from point to point to point—equidistant ability to communicate and collaborate.
Another person comes along, and we morph into a square. Perfect! Every which way, we are 6 feet apart from person to person. Equidistant. Each able to communicate and collaborate comfortably.
A fifth comes along, and yet another and another, and then? The model falls apart. We are now separated by space that requires yelling across father distances and competing voices for attention, even if point to point, we maintain the same 6 feet. The implications are clear. As long as we are all in a tribal space created by our geometry of sharing, we can continue meaningful social interaction and powerful collaboration. Grow beyond the four, and we start to fail.
Just think about your ZOOM interactions. As much as we love how efficient it is and how well we use it (sort of), when the crowd gets larger than four, and the boxes of participants get smaller and pushed back, the multiple voices become a cacophony, before we are all inevitably muted by the host. And at that point, we all just listen, rather than contribute or speak. It works yes, but it has its limitations.
The Geometry of Social Distancing is a critical lesson and provides meaningful insight as we struggle to imagine what comes next. We will be left with two competing needs, and even as we contemplate an end—or at least a loosening of the restrictions—the impact of the past couple of months will continue to influence our everyday interactions in many profound ways as we consider returning to to local stores, getting a haircut or manicure, eating in a restaurant, attending a concert or seeing a movie or play, or even playing in a park.
Think about your work team size, your meeting size, your physical office layouts. Reimagine your restaurant space and store aisles for shopping and checkout. Public transportation; sports; leagues and on and on.
Contemplate what defines friendship, and who was alone and who was lonely.
In an unattributed quote I read: “Draw a circle around yourself – invite people in or keep them out. We are the creators of our social geometry. Calculate your volume.”
In contemplating traditional geometry, Leonardo da Vinci proffered something rather profound. Listen:
“Learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else”
The Geometry of Social Distancing has created a new axiom of opportunity. My hope is that we leverage it for a new and more meaningful way to make our humanity core to all that we do.
Calculate your volume. We are all connected.