Meeting the global community virtually

Written by Fer van den Boomen

This is just another picture of a Zoom meeting. And yet, to me it is more than that: I look at it as a picture of the state of our professional community during the pandemic.

The picture is taken by one of the participants of the 3rd Organization Development World Summit of IODA on “Breakpoints and beyond. People-Positivity-Possibility”. The Assumption University of Thailand was able to host a virtual ‘meeting of minds’ with colleagues that were actually staying in different time zones, even on different continents. Somewhere at the end of the three-day conference, Peter Kalmar (Hungary) invited us to visualize the connection between the participants: ‘please put the palms of your hands at both sides of your own camera, as if you actually touch your neighbor somewhere on the globe’. And as you can see on the picture we did, a little hesitant, but also laughing, sometimes even joking.

To me this picture shows the ambivalence of what we as a professional community experience during the pandemic. It demonstrates the ‘tragic optimism’ (Frankl, 1984) of our professional state of being. Like everybody else we, as professionals, try to make the best out of what is possible. But during the conference I really missed the encounters with real people in a physical space: travelling to (and staying in) a foreign country, shaking hands of old colleagues, using all our senses instead of just listening to talking heads, having unexpected encounters, deepening our professional conversations over coffee and/or wine.

To me personal contact is an essential part of our profession. So I look forward to meet the OD community both globally and locally next year!

Fer van den Boomen

Frankl, V. (1984). The case for strategic optimism. Postscript to Man’s ‘Search for meaning’. New York: Simon & Schuster.