Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Seek efficiency with things, not people

What do you see when you see people? 

That’s the fundamental question of human interaction. And the way you answer it colors every relationship you have with others. 

I have a programmer friend who’s a master at efficiency. His ability to execute a specific outcome with a minimum amount or quantity of waste, expense, or unnecessary effort is unparalleled. 

But he’s not exactly a people person. Shocking, I know. But to him, every interaction is a binary construct. Black or white, one or zero, true or false. And that’s fine for the world of engineering, but human beings require a few more keystrokes. There’s no shortcut for empathy. Our goal should be to seek efficiency with things, not people. Otherwise we rob each other of the basic humanity that makes the world work.

I recently read an amazing but terrifying story about a new app that gives managers early warning so they can take action before employees jump ship. Corporate data crunchers play with dozens of factors, which may include job tenure, geography, performance reviews, employee surveys, communication patterns and even personality tests to identify flight risks, aka, people who are likely to leave. 

The data reveal a complex picture of what motivates workers to stay, and what causes them to look elsewhere. And the program ultimately assigns employees with individual retention predictor numbers, similar to a credit score, to indicate the likelihood that a worker will leave. 

It’s truly an amazing piece of technology. Except for one problem. If the only reason human resources is coming to talk to employees is because an algorithm told them to, the human race has officially jumped the shark. We’re finished. 

The point is, there’s system for human interaction. Nobody has a simple interpersonal solution that can be followed step by step to a satisfying conclusion. It’s a matter of awareness and thoughtfulness and intention and attention. And it all goes back to that question.

What do you see when you see people? 

Once we learn to find answers that err on the side of humanity, not efficiency, once we start treating each other as a real people with feelings and dreams and flaws and ideas, the complexion of our communication will shift forever. 

Are you seeking efficiency with things or people?
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Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
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