THE FILE (from the art of business series)

The great digital age we live in affords wondrous opportunities and efficiencies. My doctor can pull up all my medical history, tests, treatments and RX’s on his laptop. Providing the foundation, he needs to prescribe a path for healing. He can do this from any place in the world with the flick of a few keys. 

It’s nothing short of art the way my doctor uses digital records. Applying his reason, judgement and ownership to the process. His experience, talent and time the additional ingredients. 

Unfortunately, these key elements are often missing in the mainstream of business today. This same digital age can produce information to push us through the system, to categorize us, to control us with only the thought of process in mind. 

It has birthed the faceless, stage named,customer service representative who only does the pushing and owns no part of the process, let alone the client base. It has spawned the ditto world we live in. Often the jobs are uninspiring especially for the well-educated functionary. They probably never imagined their jobs would be so narrow. It can’t be good for the job holder, client or business in the long run. 

I miss the times when business was more artful. Watching “Endeavor” on PBS and its star Inspector Morse made me nostalgic. They had paper files, each with unique contents, every shred of evidence was laid out on a table and wall. A pencil and paper used. The magic was the time to put it all together. 

We used to have client files; ones filled with a myriad of information. What they wanted and didn’t, special needs, key contacts needed to serve them, all sorts of side notes and even photos. The files were thick, sometimes unwieldy and always invaluable. The phone notes came in on pick slips with all sorts of graffiti and handwriting on them. You had a pencil and paper on your desk and even a real phone. You actually felt like you owned your client base. The relationship with them long term, not just lasting the length of a call.

The files of the past are no longer possible, given today’s legal environment. Still, I hope that business evolves to marrying the efficient advantages of the digital age with employees being given more time and latitude to work with the data. Where reason, judgement and ownership of process are important again. A time when art will be returned to business.

Ironically, the name of my doctor is Morse. The same as inspector Morse on Endeavor. I can only hope for more Morse’s in the times ahead…

David Young