Review on Humans Are underrated by Geoff Colvin

Humans are not all alike. We each have our own unique genetic makeup, as well as our own experiences and cultures. Understanding this is useful to managers because it provides a framework for appreciating why people behave in a certain manner under organisational settings. Some behaviour are positive, others are not. Humans’ strength comes from the mind. The thoughts and emotions are enveloped in their psyches and have always determined their behaviours today.

In an unpredictable world, those who thrived have always relied on their instincts. Although, most companies are in favour of logical softwares and tools instead of emotions, the latter can never be fully eliminated. The need to feel is the most basic human requirement and one of the central human acts of inhabiting of connecting ourselves on this planet which belongs to us and to which we belong. So is being optimistic, empathetic and kind enough to swim through the waves? Often enough, we wish people are more rational but we can never run away from our emotions. If we can no longer keep up with computers, how else can we contribute to the working society?

Coming from a computing background, I kind of mentally prepare myself that I will always be on the move, always will have to pick up new technical skills along my career journey. From project management skills, IT security, SQL to big data and excel. It’s easy to be focused, do what you need to do and ignore those around you. In my book, it’s the next easiest thing after running. While it’s good to try to improve, we forget that sometimes, what matters is the depth not the width. Being in- depth, does not just means being good at what you are doing but also, being your humane self, always in search of a deeper purpose, while continually look at life and situations in an obscure way to discover what’s beyond the surface.

So, how do we get out of the mundane repetitive world that some of us are in and move to a much deeper level? In our daily lives, we all form relationships despite doing transactional tasks. For instance, when one drops by a coffee house and place an order. The barista listens and tries to interact. He might even remember what your favourite order is, asks about your well-being and share things. Notice the valuable traits – good listener, we know they are people who always got our backs, which means that they are trustworthy, sincere, caring and committed to you apart from doing what they need to do. There are many benefits of being a trusted person. You get access to information faster, referrals as well as people tend to be helpful and forgiving. The key thing is, people need to know that you care about them more than yourself. So ask for their opinion, tell them your standpoint and be open about the outcome.

Geoff Colvin mentioned about the power or storytelling. Humans are created to form interpersonal connections, create ideas from personal contact rather than from hard data. Hence the reason why it’s easier to improve or create new processes from stories than facts. Most big organisations work in a counter-intuitive and data driven approach. Perhaps what we need to remember is that people with their own talents and aspirations make up organisations and they create processes that best represent the organisation’s mission and goals. Then, use the shared mission to drive the strategy and act aggressively.

The difference between a story and a narrative is that a story is forgotten over time while a narrative is open-ended (determine a powerful beginning, middle and end) and invites participation while maintaining the purpose of the ambition. That is how the audience come together and expand the horizons of human knowledge in peace and tranquility and eventually lead to innovations that change the course of human lives.  Use a story as an event and as a part of a larger narrative, it provides the core of a mission where everyone can contribute.

We all agree that we can no longer compete with computers. So here are the three skills that Geoff Colvin mentioned that will be essential for one to survive in the industry.

  1. Humans will remain in charge
    • Humans will make important decisions
    • Human nature to listen to leaders not machines
    • Humans will need to be held accountable for important decisions
    • Social necessity to have leaders at every level in an organisation
    • Every single interaction involves influencing and persuading others to get what we want
    • Give credit to others when things go well and take responsibility when they don’t
  2. Humans must work together to set collective goals
    • Teamwork is important to define the problems in an organisation and how to solve them
    • Keep the focus on the other person. Keep your stories short and complaints shorter. This will leave the other person wanting more. Let them share more about themselves. That’s when they start to trust you.
    • Groups can solve problems faster than individuals
  3. Only humans can satisfy deep interpersonal needs
    • Human beings evolve for interaction with one another
    • Personal relationships equates survival
      • Great work ethic while having the ability to have relatable, effective and influential relationships
    • Possess most deeply human abilities
      • Empathy above all, social sensitivity, storytelling, collaborating, solving problems together, building relationships
      • Great leaders are expert networkers
      • Have a small group of people whom you trust to confide into, That’s how you remain calm under pressure

In conclusion, right brain skills of social interactions are as important as left brain logical skills. In fact, due to the rapidly changing economy, empathy is the key to high value work, not just to be productive, but also to negotiate and resolve conflicts in the most effective way. The next question is, what do you do if your efforts backfired? That happens, especially when you exceed expectations. One will get unpopular. But at the end of the day, you will need to remind yourself that you are not hired to please everyone, but rather improve the organisation as a whole. Great leaders understand the positive energy and try to increase these activities. They  recognize what drains their energy and minimize those interactions and replace with something that inspires them.

To put things in perspective, being a great performer is becoming less about what you know, but more about what you are like. For that, make the most out of you, for is what there is of you. With that, have a positive 2016!

Humans are Underrated by Geoff Colvin