Jun 12, 2021
[Column] Online and "Inconvenience Benefit"

Monthly column in Asahi Newspaper Hokkaido version
June 12th, 2021. Noyuri Mima

 Online classes, online conferences, online lectures, and other online activities are on the rise. As these things go on for a year or more, I realize things that I hadn’t paid attention to before, but that were important.

 In the past, meetings of an organization were usually followed by a dinner. But we were online due to the pandemic, and the last two times we disconnected as soon as the meeting was over and felt very lonely afterwards.

 At the meeting held last week, there was an online luncheon after that, which members attended from different locations. It was during the day, so there was no alcohol, but the topics of conversation ranged from changes in our work to our daily lives. It made me realize that this kind of “spare times” was important.

 There was actually a little trick. Prior to the meeting, a lunch set arrived with the meeting materials. All food were local products of Yokohama, where the office is located. From shumai to cider, dorayaki to rice crackers. We enjoyed the same food at the meeting. I could see the smiles on the faces of the staff as they selected the items, thinking of the meeting members.

 There are several other online meetings I have participated in with members I have never met before. Some of the members are not only from within Japan, but also from India and Europe. I have had more than 20 discussions, sometimes lasting several hours. It’s surprising the more times I do this, the more I come to understand the person’s personality. I wish I could meet them in person.

 Have you ever heard of the term “inconvenience benefit”? It’s a way of thinking that is the opposite of efficiency and automation, that there is benefit in inconvenience. The opposite of this is “convenience loss,” or the idea that convenience can be harmful. Efficiency is good, but if it goes too far, it takes away from the enjoyment and satisfaction.

 Buying vegetables is faster, but growing your own gives you a sense of accomplishment. Short-cut recipes are convenient in our busy lives, but when we are restricted from going out and spend more time inside, we can find joy in taking the time to cook.

 Online meetings and remote work are efficient in that they save time and money on travel back and forth, but it lose “spare times” that comes from being in the same place together. That luncheon created a new way of interacting online that fills that time.

 The defects from the convenience benefit may lead to new ideas.