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The Year with No Handshake

Samuel Bouchard
by Samuel Bouchard. Last updated on Jan 04, 2021 11:25 AM
Posted on Jan 04, 2021 10:25 AM. 3 min read time

A good, firm handshake with a direct look in the eye: I'm a big fan of that! It's a great way to engage with another person, build trust, and express sincerity, without speaking a word. And yet as we enter 2021, we will soon have spent 12 months without handshakes.

samuel_bouchardHumans are amazingly adaptive. We’ve learned new technico-social cues to compensate, like how to avoid interrupting each other on a video call, and noticing when someone unmutes themselves in a group call to indicate that they have something to say. 

We’ve even rediscovered the lost art of "picking up the phone" to talk to others instead of shooting another email. But despite all that communication, there is nothing like a good old handshake or seeing each other in real life to connect with others in a meaningful way.

Community + convenience

Until March 2020, I had travelled for business at least once a month for the past 12 years—ever since Robotiq was founded. 

Do I miss being stuck at Toronto Pearson because of a snow storm, spending my Saturdays recovering from jet lag,  or doing push-ups on the hotel floor to try to stay in shape? Nope. 

Do I miss visiting Robotiq folks and our partners in their regions, walking through customers’  factories and engaging with my peers in the industry? Yes, a lot.

In 2020, we were forced to trade community for convenience. Don't get me wrong: Convenience is great! We saw this as an opportunity to leverage the convenience of our eLearning platform, Lean Robotics book, remote services, remote demos and online configurator for our new palletizing product. I’m glad we had those in place before we were forced to stay grounded.

Yet there are still a lot of human connections and know-how involved in developing and deploying cobot applications. Most of our remote success in 2020 was thanks to our pre-existing community, which had been built through in-person visits and events like the Robotiq User Conference. I’m grateful we created those bonds within the team and our ecosystem of partners and customers.

In 2021, we will find a new optimum: one that uses the best of both worlds, online and real-life, to complement community with convenience.


A techtonic shift

More than ever, what happened in 2020 widened the gaps between companies, between industries, and between individuals. Those on the right side of the rift are better off. Those on the wrong side are worse. 

Companies that were already set up for remote work and e-commerce didn’t miss a beat, and even grew. Those who weren’t struggled. Likewise, companies that started their cobot deployment efforts and skill-building before 2020 managed to accelerate. Among those that had not, many found themselves saying “I wish we had started installing cobot applications earlier.” They are now building their game plan for the future. We were there for companies on both sides in 2020 and we will keep supporting in 2021. 

On top of the loss of human life and ongoing health issues,  another tragedy that might result from this period is young people’s reduced chances of improving their lives. Some kids have good family and school support, access to technology and decent internet connections, but too many others do not. And we will collectively need to work hard to catch up and close that gap

It’s our responsibility, as the developers of technology, to make it as accessible as possible and to support technical education in our communities. This is an invitation that I’m sending to our own team and to our network of partners for 2021 and beyond.

Even if we never return to shaking hands, I’m very much looking forward to seeing you again in person soon. Wishing you health and happiness in 2021, from the whole Robotiq Team!



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Samuel Bouchard
Written by Samuel Bouchard
Samuel is CEO and co-founder of Robotiq. His mission is to free human hands from repetitive tasks. He is also the author of Lean Robotics: A Guide to Making Robots Work in Your Factory. He lives in Québec City with his wife and four children.
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