Category Archives for "Communication"

Dec 07

A Parable with Five Principles That Will Show You How To Build Buy In

By Terry Condon | Communication , Influence

[vc_row][vc_column column_width_percent=”80″ overlay_alpha=”50″ gutter_size=”3″ medium_width=”0″ mobile_width=”0″ shift_x=”0″ shift_y=”0″ shift_y_down=”0″ z_index=”0″ width=”1/1″][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner column_width_percent=”100″ gutter_size=”2″ overlay_alpha=”50″ medium_width=”0″ mobile_width=”0″ shift_x=”0″ shift_y=”0″ shift_y_down=”0″ z_index=”0″ width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]Most of the time, people don’t really want to change the way they do things.

Even if a new approach could yield superior results, status quo bias wields a powerful influence on all of us.

The best leaders are skilled at creating a kind of constructive discontent which yanks others out of their complacency, and creates an urgency to act.

In this post, you will learn five key principles to promote progress and change among those who like doing things as they have always been done.

These principles are gleaned from five key resources, and are demonstrated through a story about a hut maker who revolutionised hut building in his village. The five principles within this parable will help you become more influential in instigating change in others, and supporting the effort and action required to sustain it.[/vc_column_text][vc_custom_heading]

Building Buy In: The Parable of Harry & The Huts

[/vc_custom_heading][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_row_inner row_inner_height_percent=”0″ back_color=”accent” overlay_alpha=”50″ gutter_size=”3″ shift_y=”0″ z_index=”0″ css=”.vc_custom_1512599106739{border-top-width: 1px !important;border-right-width: 1px !important;border-bottom-width: 1px !important;border-left-width: 1px !important;padding-top: 10px !important;padding-right: 10px !important;padding-left: 10px !important;}”][vc_column_inner column_width_percent=”100″ align_horizontal=”align_center” gutter_size=”3″ overlay_alpha=”50″ medium_width=”0″ mobile_width=”0″ shift_x=”0″ shift_y=”0″ shift_y_down=”0″ z_index=”0″ width=”1/4″][vc_wp_text][/vc_wp_text][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner column_width_percent=”100″ style=”dark” gutter_size=”2″ overlay_alpha=”50″ medium_width=”0″ mobile_width=”0″ shift_x=”0″ shift_y=”0″ shift_y_down=”0″ z_index=”0″ width=”3/4″][vc_custom_heading]1. Understand Them[/vc_custom_heading][vc_column_text]Everyone has a set of priorities and these govern how they filter their world. Take the time to discover and communicate in relation to others top priority (Telos) and you will gain their attention. [/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]Harry was a villager in Ancient times; he had just come back from a long journey east. There he had learned from the great tribes of the sea a far superior method for making huts.

Upon his return, he noticed how ugly the huts in his village are in comparison, and how dangerous and inefficient it is to build them. Harry was determined to teach his neighbor Fred the new and improved hut making method, and gradually improve the whole village.

Last time he came back from a trip and tried to teach Fred how to hunt better, he simply shrugged his shoulders with a glazed look on his face. He clearly did not appreciate how superior Harry’s new approach was.

Harry tried and tried to persuade him to learn but eventually his persistence began to annoy Fred. Not wanting to test the relationship in case Fred got violent (as many villagers tended to) Harry decided to drop it.

This time, Harry decided to take a special interest in Fred and observe his behaviour closely.

As he did so he noticed that Fred tended to talk a lot about his family, he went to great lengths to make sure they are always safe and provided for. He also noticed that Fred’s oldest son was nearly old enough to begin his initiation into adulthood.

One day he asked Fred what he planned to teach the boy first. ‘How to build of course!’ Fred replied gruffly, without turning around.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_row_inner row_inner_height_percent=”0″ back_color=”accent” overlay_alpha=”50″ gutter_size=”3″ shift_y=”0″ z_index=”0″ css=”.vc_custom_1512598008486{padding-top: 10px !important;padding-right: 10px !important;padding-left: 10px !important;}”][vc_column_inner column_width_percent=”100″ align_horizontal=”align_center” gutter_size=”3″ overlay_alpha=”50″ medium_width=”0″ mobile_width=”0″ shift_x=”0″ shift_y=”0″ shift_y_down=”0″ z_index=”0″ width=”1/4″][vc_wp_text][/vc_wp_text][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner column_width_percent=”100″ style=”dark” gutter_size=”2″ overlay_alpha=”50″ medium_width=”0″ mobile_width=”0″ shift_x=”0″ shift_y=”0″ shift_y_down=”0″ z_index=”0″ width=”3/4″][vc_custom_heading]2. Make Them Feel Safe[/vc_custom_heading][vc_column_text]Our brains are wired to be on the look out for differences (which are perceived unconsciously as threats), emphasising similarities & common ground opens people up to you and your message.  [/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]‘A wise choice’ replied Harry. ‘I plan to do the same with my boy, a man must learn how to use his hands so that he can care and provide for his family’.

Fred turned around to face him now, nodding vigorously in agreement. ‘And what would you say a good father should teach his son to build first?’ asked Harry.

‘A hut replied Fred excitedly, what good is a man who cannot put a roof over the heads of his family?’

‘Agreed my friend, a man who cannot shelter those he loves will find it hard to attract a mate’ Harry said, mirroring his enthusiasm. ‘And what sort of hut do you plan to teach him to build?’ he asked.

Fred looked confused; ‘the same type of hut everyone in the village builds of course, isn’t that the only type of hut there is?’[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_row_inner row_inner_height_percent=”0″ back_color=”accent” overlay_alpha=”50″ gutter_size=”3″ shift_y=”0″ z_index=”0″ css=”.vc_custom_1512598290579{padding-top: 10px !important;padding-right: 10px !important;padding-left: 10px !important;}”][vc_column_inner column_width_percent=”100″ align_horizontal=”align_center” gutter_size=”3″ overlay_alpha=”50″ medium_width=”0″ mobile_width=”0″ shift_x=”0″ shift_y=”0″ shift_y_down=”0″ z_index=”0″ width=”1/4″][vc_wp_text][/vc_wp_text][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner column_width_percent=”100″ style=”dark” gutter_size=”2″ overlay_alpha=”50″ medium_width=”0″ mobile_width=”0″ shift_x=”0″ shift_y=”0″ shift_y_down=”0″ z_index=”0″ width=”3/4″][vc_custom_heading]3. Entertain Them[/vc_custom_heading][vc_column_text]Mirror neurons in the brain have evolved to allow humans to simulate experience (the key to learning), telling stories allows people to feel the emotions associated with an experience. The emotion centres of the brain control decision making and therefore heavily influence a persons actions. [/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]Harry smiled and replied ‘until recently I believed the same thing, but on my travels, I learned otherwise’.

He noticed Fred looking on intently and continued, ‘Would you like to hear about how a great tribal elder of the East taught me how to build safer, sturdier and more beautiful huts? These huts were the most beautiful I have seen, and I noticed the men in this village who built them boasted the most attractive mates’.

Fred nodded excitedly, ‘of course, my boy would be the toast of the town if he was the first young man to build one of these huts! Please tell me about your experiences!’.

Harry told Fred of his experiences with the tribal elder who generously passed on his knowledge over the course of a six-month apprenticeship. Fred laughed as Harry recounted him how terrible his first attempts were and how the locals pitied him. Fred listened as he described the new luxuries that a family can experience within these new huts and how they seemed happier than those in any other village.

Suddenly Fred looked at his hut and back at Harry ‘would you teach me Harry?’ he pleaded.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_row_inner row_inner_height_percent=”0″ back_color=”accent” overlay_alpha=”50″ gutter_size=”3″ shift_y=”0″ z_index=”0″ css=”.vc_custom_1512598695758{padding-top: 10px !important;padding-right: 10px !important;padding-left: 10px !important;}”][vc_column_inner column_width_percent=”100″ align_horizontal=”align_center” gutter_size=”3″ overlay_alpha=”50″ medium_width=”0″ mobile_width=”0″ shift_x=”0″ shift_y=”0″ shift_y_down=”0″ z_index=”0″ width=”1/4″][vc_wp_text][/vc_wp_text][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner column_width_percent=”100″ style=”dark” gutter_size=”2″ overlay_alpha=”50″ medium_width=”0″ mobile_width=”0″ shift_x=”0″ shift_y=”0″ shift_y_down=”0″ z_index=”0″ width=”3/4″][vc_custom_heading]4. Educate Them[/vc_custom_heading][vc_column_text]Cultivate a culture of conscious practice, break it down for people and keep it simple, give small chunks of (the right) information and facilitate fast and targeted feedback.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]To Fred’s delight Harry agreed, though he warned Fred; ‘the first hut will take some time’. The elder had explained to Harry the best way to teach someone is to first model the correct techniques, and then describe the process to the learner. Then support them as they practised themselves.

Harry explained that he would build his own hut first as the Model, and describe to Fred how to undertake each part of the process before allowing Fred to imitate his process.

Over the course of the next 6 months, Harry replicated the three-part apprenticeship process taught to him by the old tribal elder:

  • He taught Fred only the parts allowing the whole to gradually reveal itself over time.
  • He taught using concise, vivid descriptions that made it clear what to do, not what not to do.
  • Once he was satisfied his student understood, he allowed Fred to go to work on applying what he had learned.

Before Harry agreed to teach Fred, he made sure Fred agreed to first apply any feedback he received before reflecting on it. He had learned from the wise old elder that discussing the merits of advice given is essentially a waste of time. This is because the merits of advice can only be accurately assessed once applied.

As Harry looked over at Fred’s work, he gave clear and concise feedback that Fred accepted and applied immediately. Harry was surprised how quickly he could teach complex ideas as a result of not having to discuss every piece of advice given.

Harry, like his teacher before him was a stickler for detail. So he insisted Fred master each part of the process before he taught him the next part.

This frustrated Fred a little in the beginning, but because he received clear and concise feedback at regular intervals progress became evident more quickly. The momentum led to confidence and soon he began to trust the process.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_row_inner row_inner_height_percent=”0″ back_color=”accent” overlay_alpha=”50″ gutter_size=”3″ shift_y=”0″ z_index=”0″ css=”.vc_custom_1512598853032{padding-top: 10px !important;padding-right: 10px !important;padding-left: 10px !important;}”][vc_column_inner column_width_percent=”100″ align_horizontal=”align_center” gutter_size=”3″ overlay_alpha=”50″ medium_width=”0″ mobile_width=”0″ shift_x=”0″ shift_y=”0″ shift_y_down=”0″ z_index=”0″ width=”1/4″][vc_wp_text][/vc_wp_text][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner column_width_percent=”100″ style=”dark” gutter_size=”2″ overlay_alpha=”50″ medium_width=”0″ mobile_width=”0″ shift_x=”0″ shift_y=”0″ shift_y_down=”0″ z_index=”0″ width=”3/4″][vc_custom_heading]5. Encourage Them[/vc_custom_heading][vc_column_text]Feedback that draws attention to the process encourages people to seek challenge and growth in their pursuits, whilst drawing attention to the outcome creates anxiety and destroys confidence. [/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner column_width_percent=”100″ gutter_size=”2″ overlay_alpha=”50″ medium_width=”0″ mobile_width=”0″ shift_x=”0″ shift_y=”0″ shift_y_down=”0″ z_index=”0″ width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]When Harry was completing his own apprenticeship, he asked the wise old elder how the whole village learned to be so good at building these huts.

The elder chuckled. ‘They always learn the right way which is as I have taught you, and they are trained to appreciate the process as opposed to the end result. Valuing the process makes the task enjoyable and encourages mastery, which is why the huts in our village continue to evolve and improve while those of most other villages stay the same’.

Harry took this to heart, so whenever he complimented Fred, he made sure to emphasise the process and the effort Fred had displayed. As a result, Fred began to take immense pride in his work and his appetite for learning and improvement became insatiable.

Soon Fred was truly inspired by building better huts.

One day, Fred invited Harry over for to enjoy dinner with his family in his newly finished hut. He was proud of his creation and the life he could now provide for his family.

Harry was impressed at the quality of his craftsmanship and the home was indeed beautiful. ‘Congratulations!’ he said to Fred, ‘your home is beautiful and your family must be so proud of your efforts and the time you took to master your craft for their benefit’.

Years later, Harry and Fred were sitting on the front porch of Harry’s home. From their view on the hill they see a village that was now the envy of all others surrounding it. Many people came to live and work there since the living standards the villagers enjoy is unparalleled.

Fred pointed out the beautiful cityscape and said to Harry ‘none of this would never had happened had you not taught us to build better huts. Thank you’.[/vc_column_text][vc_custom_heading]

Moral Of The Story

[/vc_custom_heading][vc_column_text]Instigating change in the way people do things is hard, but it doesn’t have to be impossible.

Practice and apply these five principles to get it done.

  1. Understand them: Frame change in their values to get their attention.
  2. Make them feel safe: Build liking and trust by emphasizing similarities.
  3. Entertain them: Keep them engaged, and bypass defences by telling stories.
  4. Educate them: Break it down, and speed up feedback loops to build momentum and belief.
  5. Encourage them: Create a mastery mindset by recognising and emphasising effort over outcome.
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Nov 22

How to Ensure Your Advice Is Taken Seriously – Even if Others Are Resistant

By Terry Condon | Communication

[vc_row][vc_column column_width_percent=”80″ overlay_alpha=”50″ gutter_size=”3″ medium_width=”0″ mobile_width=”0″ shift_x=”0″ shift_y=”0″ shift_y_down=”0″ z_index=”0″ width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]In 1847, a Hungarian physician stumbled across one of the most significant discoveries in modern medicine. Despite his findings, he was largely ignored, and ridiculed by those who stood to gain from his insight.

Ignaz Semmelweis figured out that that doctors were unwittingly transferring pathogens from corpses to pregnant mothers as they treated them. The solution was simple: to dramatically reduce the rates of infection and mortality, all doctors had to do was wash their hands between patients.

Not long afterwards, Joseph Lister shared what was essentially the same idea. Yet, because he could point to other accepted theories he was more effective in influencing the establishment. Today he is widely known as the ‘father of modern surgery’.

Clearly, knowledge on its own is not power.

The ability to make new knowledge accessible to others differentiates the successful leader from their peers. Though there is no universal leadership style, there are universal capabilities. The ability to share knowledge effectively is without doubt one of them.

In this post, I’m going to share a tool that can help you quickly understand how people prefer to learn and act on new information. To use this tool, you will learn the four ‘student archetypes’ people commonly assume when receiving advice. This will help you tailor your communication to open others up to your point of view and ensure your message is heard.

When One Education Ends, Another Begins

It felt like a massive slap across the face.

As soon as I walked in on my first day on the job I realised what I knew meant nothing. The way the athletes were looking at me – many of them much older than I was – told me it wasn’t going to be as simple as I had imagined.

One week after graduating, I was suddenly responsible for preparing and managing some of the highest profile athletes in the country.

In that moment, I realised pretty quickly that before I could do any teaching I must learn.

Not long after my realisation, I had the privilege of attending a lecture by the legendary college basketball coach Lute Olsen. During this lecture, he essentially confirmed my thinking when he said ‘It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts’

I Realised I Needed a Blueprint for Better Sharing

From that point on I immersed myself in the study of all kinds of leaders: religious, political, philosophical and educational. I also watched my colleagues closely to find out who was most effective and why. As I learned and experimented over thousands of interactions I realised something important about giving advice to others.

It’s easy to forget what it’s like not to know what you know.

When you guide others, and give them advice without considering where they are starting from, you make all kinds of assumptions that undermine the outcome. This often creates resistance in those you seek to influence.

Their personality, and how your message makes them feel will dictate how they will respond. In general, there are a couple of core patterns that can be observed: people are either open or closed, and they are either problem focused or solution focused.

If we plot it on a classic quadrant it looks like this.

The Four Student Archetypes and How to Handle Them

The use of this model allows us to consider four core archetypes others fall into when learning new information – I call them ‘student archetypes’.

  • The cynic is closed and problem focused.
  • The sceptic is closed and solution focused.
  • The fanatic is open and problem focused.
  • The politic is open and solution focused.

On our quadrant it looks like this..

By observing where someone fits on this quadrant I could figure out which archetype they might belong to.

Experimenting with different ways of interacting with each archetype allowed me to figure out over time how best to share new information with the person in front of me.

To use this model effectively, you need to assume the approach of a good poker player. The poker player watches their counterparts closely to determine what kind of player they are, and what mood they are in. These ‘tells’ can inform the tactics used to get the desired result.

Be a poker player, look for tells and then tailor your approach to the kind of player you are dealing with.

A word of warning though, remember that what someone is like is often context specific. The same person might be a cynic in one context, and a fanatic in others.

As always with models, they can be useful, though rarely are they accurate. The best way to use this tool is to always be questioning it, and updating your assumptions.  This will ensure you are always improving your ability to share.

The movie ‘The Big Short’, showcases the four archetypes brilliantly. As news spreads that the US economy is about to collapse, the characters all inevitably fall into one of the four archetypes. I have chosen four of the more obvious examples to illustrate my point.

Below each example, I outline the most important ‘tells’ you can use to identify each archetype. Along with these tells are the tactics I recommend for dealing with each of them.

Tells: The cynic can act reserved or even rude in light of new information, and often poisons others with their inherently negative view of the world. They can be sarcastic, passive aggressive or overtly resistant depending on their personality type.

Tips: Fight your instinct to confront this person (unless not doing so will cause others to doubt your conviction or message). Instead step back and make it seem like you are ceding power to this person, yet at the same time make them accountable for their assertions.

Say something like: ‘well it seems like you sure know what you’re doing, what kind of results are you getting with your way?’ How have these changed or improved over time? And how do you expect these to change going forward? What are you basing these assumptions on?

This allows you to move away from opinion, and get to facts. This is really important as often the cynic largely looks through the lens of the past, and how it makes them feel. If you can get them into the present and observing facts, you have a shot at influencing them.

Don’t expect this to always work though, and don’t expect any change in attitude to occur quickly. The best way to deal with a cynic is get results with their peers, and gradually turn them into a vocal minority whom has much to say, yet comparably little success to point to.

Tells: The sceptic won’t dismiss you out of hand like the cynic does, but they will ask probing questions. Their body language, pitch, and tone will tell you they won’t just take your word for it, you will have to convince them. But they can be convinced. Unlike the cynic, they are a little more interested in solving the problem, and have done (or are doing) their own thinking on the matter.

Tips: The sceptic can be your biggest advocate if you engage with them the right way. If you don’t dismiss their experience or insight and are prepared to engage in thoughtful disagreement, this person will champion your cause in a way no one else will.

When discussing your ideas with this person, always come from a place of ‘let’s get to the truth’ rather than, ‘let’s get you to take on my truth’. Chances are, their thinking can and will evolve your own perspective.

No one sees reality clearly, we filter it through our perceptions which are guided by our values. Good discussion and debate leads to higher quality decisions. If you treat this person as a peer, they will open up to your message in pursuit of a solution.

Tells: The fanatic is that person who gets overly excited about what you have to say, yet does not seem to fully understand. They will cling to your advice and treat it like its irrefutable, and treat you like a god. Be warned though, it’s not often a good thing.

Tips: Be very wary of the fanatic, this is probably the most dangerous archetype. They are so desperate to rid of their problem they look for certainty anywhere they can get it. If you come at the fanatic with too much certainty, you are setting yourself up for a fall.

The fanatic will not work to actually understand your message, they just want the end result. If and when hiccups happen, this person will not expect it, and point the finger at you. Do not sell this person, educate them. Make sure they see and understand both the benefits and the risks associated with your approach.

Tells: This person rarely gets overly excited about anything. They are incredibly pragmatic and very logical in their learning. They have little to no hang-ups about changing their mind in the face of new and better information. This is the person whom asks thoughtful questions and really considers your answers.

Tips: Lay it all out for this person in a logical, sequential manner and let them chew on it. If they ask a question, don’t worry about how you need to answer it, just answer it. The politic is less interested in playing games than getting to the truth, and improving outcomes. Help them get there faster, and they’ll love you for it.

The politic is the easiest person to work with, and usually gets results faster and with less hiccups than any of the others. Use this to your advantage by showcasing their results as a case study for the cynics and sceptics.  It’s hard to refute the facts, especially when their peers are proving something works.

Build Your Skills

Remember, knowledge on its own is not power, it is only potential power. The ability to organise, integrate and translate knowledge into action is power, and this ability separates the successful from the smart.

To teach, first learn. Learn who your counterpart is, how they like to learn, and what student archetype they are likely to assume within the a given context. Use this information to frame your advice the right way, and tailor your approach and you will overcome resistance.

As with any skill, the best way to get better is to practice deliberately. Using this framework, start noticing which student archetypes those around you automatically assume within different contexts. Then start experimenting with the tips I have provided here, and come up with your own.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Oct 05

Why Automation Will Make Work More Human

By Terry Condon | Communication , Strategy

[vc_row][vc_column column_width_percent=”80″ overlay_alpha=”50″ gutter_size=”3″ medium_width=”0″ mobile_width=”0″ shift_x=”0″ shift_y=”0″ shift_y_down=”0″ z_index=”0″ width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]If you believe today’s rhetoric surrounding tech and its implications, you could be forgiven for thinking the world as we know it is about to end. In a way that might be true, but does this mean that the future of business will hinge solely on technology? I doubt it.

The rise of the service economy means that more and more people are in in the business of helping people. While technology can replace some aspects of how value is created and captured, anarchists often overlook the fact that business transactions ultimately occur between humans.

Leaders who are investing intelligently for the future understand that technology only makes the human element even more important. This is done by leveraging tech to improve the human experience, and doubling down on people development.

Is Code being Commoditised?

The increased educational focus on STEM reflects a particularly pervasive narrative around the future of work: if people don’t know how to program, they will struggle to add value. This makes sense on the surface, everywhere we look it seems as if Marc Andreessen’s assertion that ‘software is eating the world’ is proving correct.

The trained Taxi driver is all too aware of how technology can quickly change the game, and render one’s career obsolete seemingly overnight. Before them it was factory workers, and before them it was farmers. There is no doubt technology can and does replace people, in certain fields at least.

Do these trends mean that one-day humans will be irrelevant in business? Should all of us without ‘technical chops’ rapidly retool to stay relevant? This seems to be the popular sentiment – among technologists at least. But what if this thinking is completely wrong?

The truth is, code – like many other functions – can and will be commoditised. In fact, this is already happening. Ten years ago I payed multiple thousands for a (substandard) website I never used. Today I can build my own (much more functional) website for a fraction of that cost, all without coding.

I farm it out to a freelancer who can do the job quickly and cheaply within hours. That freelancer’s skills were worth ten times as much ten years ago, today it cost me less than an average night out to hire the same expertise.

Recently Marc Cuban (a pioneer in tech commerce) said that computers will eventually teach themselves to code. The idea is that artificial intelligence will become so smart that it will be less about programming our computers, instead we will train them.

If code is being commoditised, where and how should leaders spend their R&D invest dollars for the future?

Kevin Kelly, the founder wired magazine and author of technology treatise titled The Inevitable observes that we humans have a weird relationship with tech. He has stated that in general we tend to overestimate technologies impact in the present, and underestimate it over longer periods. Often this means people fall into one of two categories; sceptics or fanatics.

The reality is, those who do technology are not necessarily better placed to prosper in a technological future. If that were the case, then programmers would not be bidding for piecemeal prices on freelancing platforms. Instead those whom position themselves to prosper in the future will be those who best understand technology.

Tech = Transformation, not Disintegration.

If we study the past, we can see clear trends in how technology impacts humans. Before the industrial revolution most people worked with their hands. Then as machines took over the grunt work, we worked more with our minds. Today’s tech is often far superior at the logical, sequential data processing tasks, now those who do best, do business with their hearts.

In business, technology does two important things; it reduces friction and increases transparency. Think about how the experience of getting into an Uber differs from getting into a cab five years ago. Before you would be waiting around for a cab to drive by, hurrying to explain where you are going, and wondering how much it would cost.

Now you know exactly when and where to meet, no cash changes hands and the driver already knows where you are going. There are no transactional concerns to worry or think about. So what’s left to discuss?


You and the driver are now much more likely engage in an actual conversation. What’s more, you are also more likely to bring your best selves to the interaction thanks to peer rating systems. These review systems make it much easier to know what you are going to get in any business transaction. This essentially means that over time the driver who is not only effective, but relatable will win.

We can see the same pattern across most industries, technology replaces certain aspects of work –  left brain, logical, sequential rational processing – but in doing so, much other aspects more important. Think Air BnB, Instacart, and Menulog.

How to Win Both Ways.

There is an important law of automation; anything that can be done better by a machine, will be, and (eventually) will be commoditised. This inevitably happens because what can be automated can be replicated, and Moore’s law means as tech keeps getting better, it gets cheaper.

The flipside of this is this law is just as true; anything that humans do better than a machine will be done by humans, and will increase in value. This is precisely because ‘human’ skills and tasks are variable and not as easily scaled or replicated.

As always in economics, scarcity drives value. Those firms and people who use the opportunity created by tech to build strong relationships, will dominate share of mind. Tech actually fuels this phenomenon; Think about how a bad rating on yelp or social media can impact a business fortunes.

Jeff Bezos can serve as a useful model for leaders looking for guidance. Amazon has pioneered the use of cutting edge technology to run its business, though everything is aligned toward a very human insight. People are always going to value goods that are low price and convenient.

Can you see the strategy here?

Relentless innovation enables amazon to prosper from what is changing, while an obsession on human relations allows the same company to thrive from what stays the same. This approach acknowledges that business is done between humans, yet technology can and will change things.

But would this work in other industries?

Absolutely, think about the change happening in the financial services sector right now. Low cost index funds are massively popular, and sophisticated algorithms do most of the worlds trading. Most people these days recognise that the human element is better eliminated from investing.

However, when it comes to making money decisions, people are always going to want human reassurance. So once again, the law of automation comes into play. This will favour the financial advisor who wins trust, builds strong relationships, and always exceeds expectations.

Making Trade-offs with Tech

Unfortunately, an emerging downside to tech is that it often creates inequality. In the past productivity gains associated with innovation created a bigger pie for everyone, however today this is not always the case. Nowadays a small group reap most of the benefits.

Billionaire tech investor Peter Thiel calls this a power law. In business, this can be seen by the increasingly obvious trend in which a few firms thrive while most struggle.  The winners are those leveraging technology to improve the human experience in every sector.

But what if you can’t do both? Unlike Bezos, few leaders have limitless resources. So how might one choose if forced to trade-off between investments in technology, versus investments in mastering the human element of business?

Assuming you are in the business of selling specialised knowledge, it would make sense to favour the development of people over tech. Tech will continue to fall in cost, while the cost of falling short on the human side of business will only continue to increase.

Despite the dizzying innovations in Medicine, today’s doctors face more litigation than ever. Why? They have forgotten the importance of the human aspect of their job. Copious amounts of research continue to show the majority of lawsuits can be retraced to a poorly handled first experience.

If you look around, the trend is clear. In today’s business world, treating people like machines, and being transactional is the fastest way to irrelevance.

However, choosing to invest in your people does not have to come at the cost of tech. Sticking your head in the sand is not a solution. Forward thinking leaders are doubling down on people development, and creating smart strategic alliances for tech at the same time.

This approach enables firms to avoid becoming distracted by dabbling in technology at the cost of their core competencies. It also ensures tech solutions solve human problems, since ideas for applications will come from practitioners, rather than engineers.

Case in point would be Nike. The global sporting goods manufacturer recently partnered with Apple to move into a more service oriented business model with its Nike + users. This has allowed the company to better understand its customer, in order to build stronger relationships and increase loyalty.

The Take Home.  

There is little doubt that business is getting more and more competitive and dynamic. The pace of change is dizzying and it can be hard to know how best to position yourself and or your business for the future.

The key to getting ahead is understanding how technology impacts the human experience, and using it accordingly. Innovation creates change, but the human element of business remains the same. This means the human experience is more important than ever.

Firms that are creating a competitive advantage focus on harnessing what is changing to master what won’t. These firms use tech to streamline business transactions and invest in ensuring their people master the people part of business.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]