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Do You Need to Decelerate?

The contemporary world, especially the digital world, is fast-paced. In fact, “faster” is one of its defining elements. As a result, people often feel that they are accelerating at warp speed. Work life fosters this, with instant communications (email) and instant task completion (working online, where things are finalized with a click). Many businesses in technology news expect their employees to be available 24/7, at the touch of a phone.

Slowing down is increasingly popular.

Deceleration Is a Growing Trend

Yet deceleration is a growing trend. How do we know? Well, we know by watching consumer choices, in part.

As a recent Harvard Business Review article points out, multiple goods and services that promise a slower way of life have been rising in popularity for some time now. One example is yoga and wellness retreats, which are increasingly popular as vacation destinations. “Digital detoxes,” are also popular. As the name implies, they are enforced periods with no access to digital devices.

Perhaps most strikingly, people are choosing experiences that enforce a slowdown. On one hand, the Journal of Consumer Research recently published an article on walking the ancient pilgrimage routes in Europe as a deceleration technique — an event that has been growing in popularity among a wide swath of people, of all religions, for 20 years. On the other, jail is a rising trend for vacations in South Korea, because digital and other fast-paced detoxes can be enforced.

Yoga and other destress techniques are popular for retreats.

Implications for People and Businesses

These trends indicate that business leadership can profit from providing opportunities for deceleration, and that many people feel they can benefit.

The HBR identifies three distinct ways in which deceleration is possible.

The first is bodily slowing down. Walking is preferred rather than the many faster ways transportation can be achieved.

The second is detaching from technology. It doesn’t mean going cold turkey on technology, but managing its use. For businesses or managers, it might mean choosing to focus on personal communication rather than digitally conveyed methods. Connecting digitally or to WiFi might be done sparingly.

The third is episodic deceleration. This too is a management issue, in which people choose which activities to engage in and cut back on choices. Only some data might be accessed, or only some activities, or only some consumption choices – not the dizzying array of Hulu, Netflix, Amazon all the time, every day.

Businesses are taking advantage of all of these. HBR points out that WiFi, marketed as a desirable amenity by hotels just a few years ago, has undergone a sea change. Now, the lack of it is marketed as a desirable amenity. Vacation providers are marketing slow food and walking experiences. Retailers are marketing relaxed, one-on-one physical environments, where the focus is on one consumer and the choices, rather than on an array of frictionless products.

Will deceleration become even more of a trend? Current indicators are that has been in the process of becoming one for some time, and that it is likely to continue. At the least, unplugging and slowing down is one more choice among the many.