I’ve been reading Guy Kawasaki’s Enchantment for the past few days. Reading it in iBooks gives me the chance to highlight my favorite sections to remember, and there have been many so far. As with all of Guy’s books, it’s a good read, and helps flesh out viewpoints I already hold in an articulate and well reasoned way.

In a nutshell, I’d say Enchantment is the love child of Seth Godin’s Purple Cow and Chris Brogan and Julien Smith’s Trust Agents. It’s about building relationships by building likability, trust, and how to form a culture where everyone feels good about what they’re a part of. While I would argue that for many of us, this is not a really new message, some people still haven’t gotten the memo, so I guess it bears repeating.

One of the points early on that resonated for me was:

“Close proximity and frequent contact mean you interact with them more, and your relationship can more easily progress from acquaintance to friend because of casual and spontaneous encounters.”

The problem with virtual relationships and working environments is that we don’t “see” the people enough, and as a result, we either take them and their work for granted, or assume they are goldbricking because there’s no external force or direct accountability to compel work. This can be the farthest thing from the truth, of course, but “out of sight, out of mind”.

This is why so many companies try to get their virtual workers to have some “facetime” in the office, to become more integrated into the team, the culture of the workplace, and have a sense of belonging to something bigger beyond an occasional check or direct deposit. The in-person meetings are important to building relationships and trust. Without this sense of obligation and deeper personal relationship, projects become more impersonal cogs in a machine, and the people attached to them become mere entries on the books. Without this sense of community, a job is just work, not a calling, or anything that resonates on a personal level.

The community aspect of work environments is why freelancers are getting together to form ad hoc “coworking” offices, like Indy Hall in Philly or the CoIN Loft in Wilmington. And it’s why as much as we talk about distance and virtual education, people are still wired for the social interactions and relationships we get in a classroom- the interaction not only with the instructor, but what we learn from other students and their perspectives as well. Education, sharing, work and productivity do still rely, in part, on human to human interactions and the formation of communities.

While we can work with people over time and space like never before, we shouldn’t discount the importance of showing up and shaking hands in person. Those small, social touches do more for building relationships than we realize. It certainly goes a long way towards adding the “enchantment” factor into a relationship, because it’s much easier to work with someone you know than someone you only have an occasional relationship with, or one that’s conducted largely over email.

Personally, I’m finding adding voice (phone or skype calls) and video calls into my communications with friends and colleagues has helped significantly when we can’t get together in person. This quasi-facetime gives more social clues into mood, sentiment, thoughts- the whole hidden body language that’s important when deciphering people’s real feelings, which is an important part of that whole trust matrix.

I’m sure I’m going to enjoy the rest of Enchantment. While there are few points so far I would call novel or earth shaking, it does package up the whole idea of the importance of likability, “don’t be evil” and being human into a nice package for folks. It’s another piece of evidence to add to the pile that the trust economy is going to continue to be vital in the age of instant communication, and that we shouldn’t take for granted the importance of meeting and speaking face to face for building relationships and community.

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