Our world is always on. Time zones slow nothing. Barriers are nonexistent. Access is perpetual. We are always connected with our suppliers, customers, employees, and colleagues. The pace is fast and the pressure to perform has never been higher. How we lead, manage and collaborate in this “virtual world” makes all the difference.

The Distance Lens is a framework for viewing successes and misfires in today’s highly networked organizations. It provides a foundational blueprint to help people work well together across the distances that separate them.

At Bridging Distance, we break distance down into four main types:

Physical Distance

Differences in where we are located.

When people from across the cube, across town, or across the globe need to work together, steps must be taken to minimize the impact of the distance between them — especially as it impacts both productivity and communication.

While physical distance (such as time zones) is the easiest type of distance to comprehend, it is the most challenging to change.

Interpersonal Distance

Differences in who we are as individuals — such as personal style, cultural background, and age.

Often, these differences make people uncomfortable with each other, causing them to avoid or hesitate in reaching out to one another. It can be amplified by cultural differences that make it harder for people to understand one another. This avoidance and hesitation increases the interpersonal distance between people and between teams of people.

When people are not emotionally connected, a certain aloofness or detachment can take hold between individuals, teams, and organizations. Once this gap begins, it will continue to expand. Bridging this gap requires a conscious and concerted effort by all involved.


Organizational Distance

Differences in our organizational roles or departments.

This distance exists between individuals and teams within the same organization and within teams created when two organizations merge. Organizational distance is created when different groups need to work together, but have conflicting operational policies, procedures, cultures, standards and priorities. This type of distance is often manifested through unhealthy competition and conflicting behaviors.

Technological Distance

Differences in how people choose and use different technologies, especially communication technologies.

It encompasses the differences created by the way people use technology, the cap created by the kind of technology that people own, and the real and imagined differences in how people work based on this information. Is is the distance created by differing perceptions about what is standard and acceptable; in particular, the assumptions about others based on how their technology habits are interpreted.

Generational and cultural differences create profound technological distance as it often overlaps with other types of distance. For example, interpersonal distance is increased when people also have different views on what is acceptable use of technology.