Humans are Underrated by Geoff Colvin

Summary

  1. As technology advances, people shouldn’t focus on beating computers at what they do but rather develop our most essential human abilities and interpersonal experience. The people who can emphasize and foster these skills, especially empathy, will be the most valuable members of our workforce.
Key Takeaways
  1. Many people will lose their jobs due to advancing technology and automation but that frees people up to pursue more “human” jobs and interactions
  2. The changing nature of the economy will shift the valuable sills to those which are more deeply “human” – sensing the thoughts and feelings of others, working productively in groups, building relationships, solving problems together, expressing ourselves with greater power than logic can ever achieve
  3. Computers are getting ever better at certain human abilities such as reading emotions, being creative, and even physical work like driving cars. However, this should not worry people as what we truly desire is a deep interaction with someone. A computer cannot reciprocate emotions, body language, etc. even if it “understands” what you are feeling. Human interaction is an inherent need we have and this holds the key to our value in this changing world
  4. There are certain universal human traits and understanding these will help us figure out how to best serve each other – empathy; people admire generosity and disapprove of stinginess; we all cry and make jokes; we all make music and dance; we all have a concept of fairness and reciprocity; we all have pride; we all tell stories; every society has leaders
  5. People want and need to interact with other people, to look into people’s eyes and read their body language. Interaction jobs are the fastest growing in our economy and having this skill is vital to success in any industry
  6. Rather than ask what computers can’t do, it’s much more useful to ask what people are compelled to do (and they aren’t always rational)
  7. Social networking has shown to make us less happy and satisfied with our lives. The further we get from in-person interactions, the less satisfying and productive it is
  8. Working face-to-face makes people and groups smarter, more productive, efficient and collaborative.
  9. Era of Empathy – Empathy is the foundation of all other abilities that increasingly make people valuable as technology advances. It means discerning what some other person is thinking and feeling and responding in some appropriate way. Computers, even if they “understand” our emotions through facial recognition, cannot reciprocate and empathize with us. Increased use of social media has shown to decrease empathy. Always make building relationships your top priority in any interaction. This mindset will never steer your wrong on any business or social setting
  10. Building relationships can be broken down into three parts – relationship establishment, development and engagement
  11. To build empathy in kids, read aloud to them, let them play on their own and do as much role playing as possible
  12. When somebody comes to talk to you about something difficult, never say “I understand.”
  13. In order to improve performance in any realm, you must measure everything, make the practice as real as possible and immediately review the results. You must often be brutally honest with feedback in order for people to learn as quickly and effectively as possible. The more information we get, the better decisions we can make, we can better understand and remember why something worked well or didn’t work and leads to higher motivation since they are more engaged
    1. The army, navy, air force example is amazing. The After-Action Review (AAR) literally changed the way these people train their soldiers. The margin of improvement was 5x! in an era where 5% improvement was good
  14. Technology is much less influential than the people using it (Navy, Air Force example where their way superior planes weren’t beating the Russians and Vietnamese)
  15. The good news for many people is that interpersonal skills can be learned and empathy is like any other muscle which must be “exercised” to grow
  16. After Action Review
    1. It happens immediately after the event or sometimes even during the event
    2. Everyone is involved
    3. The discussion stays focused on the issue of how well the exercise achieved its objective. What was supposed to happen and did we do it?
    4. Assess performance of everyone involved – soldiers, leaders and the group as a whole
    5. Not to assign a grade but to identify specific strengths and weaknesses that will guide future training
    6. The discussion must be brutally honest – absolute candor
  17. How you deliver a message is just as important as the message itself
  18. Paul Azinger was charged with putting together an American team for the Ryder Cup without Tiger Woods. He took a different approach and decided to group similar personality types together. Social people with social people, aggressive players with aggressive players, etc. Also, he broke the 16 man team into 4 groups which allowed the players to get to know one another more intimately. This had great success as the players were closer-knit and they ended up beating the Europeans even without Tiger
  19. The effectiveness of a group correlates highly with the social sensitivity of that group and also the number of women on it. Women are inherently more empathetic and socially sensitive than men and this will be very valuable moving forward. The number one factor in making a group effective is skill at deep human interaction. Great groups iterate a lot of ideas, interact about equally and offered both their own ideas and responding to others. Two other very important traits for a productive group is cooperativeness and generosity
  20. Generally judge and assess people’s trustworthiness in less than 1/10th of 1 second
  21. Storytelling is incredibly human and will become ever more important. The storyteller and listener’s brains align and they become connected in a very deep way
  22. Seeing stories in random events is much easier for us than not seeing stories
  23. People absolutely love happy endings and the “classic” hero structure – normal guy, issue, defeats issue and goes back to normal but is somehow changed for the better
  24. While computers are getting ever better at being creative (cooking, music, etc.) people need and love having somebody to connect with that creativity
  25. The most creative and productive groups split their time between exploring and engaging. Also, more trust lead to more creative and higher quality ideas. Groups of 2 can trust others the way larger groups often can’t and is why we often see such productivity from two people. more ideas and better judgment is what makes groups better
  26. Proximity of groups is also extremely important. Proximity leads to better communication which leads to more creativity
  27. Intrinsic motivation stimulates creativity much better than does extrinsic motivation
  28. Women are better at Reading the Mind in the Eye (RME) test. Women are empathizing whereas men are systemizing and in this world the women have a big advantage
  29. Eliminate competing for status in any group if you want them to be successful
  30. Speaks about how infotech can be utilized to built empathy and understanding others feelings through virtual reality training and other software programs
What I got out of it
  1. Really interesting read. Although technology will eliminate many jobs, what people innately desire, deep human interaction, will never disappear and will make people with empathy and are good socially ever more valuable

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