When you stop for a second and think about how our everyday lives have changed in the past two decades, one word comes to mind – disruption. Technological advancements have disrupted the way we live, make connections and interact with friends and family, so they have become an integral part of our lives. And in light of the current disconnection and social distancing we’re all practicing as we move through the Coronavirus situation, we thank goodness all the more for those wondrous innovations which are now doing so much to hold society together.
In recent year it’s sometimes felt possible that we don’t value our human connections as much as we used to: they were so easily made – and broken – that they felt small, incidental, not worthy of cherishing perhaps. As we interacted more through technology and less face-to-face there were unintended consequences, such as the rise in rates of loneliness and explosion of mental health problems in the last decade, especially among young people. We were all so very connected, and yet somehow these connections didn’t add up to a feeling of humanity and community.
And now – Coronavirus has suddenly made communicative technologies the thing we cling to. As organisations around the world close their doors for an unknown period of time, technology is what makes it possible for their customers to experience a seamless service, and helps teams stay connected with each other on a daily, even hourly basis.
At Insights, we believe the best response to all the change and disruption is choosing to rediscover ourselves as unique humans, so that we can blend the best of digital with our glorious, varied, irreplaceable humanity. We firmly believe that when we come up against defining moments – whether that’s an opportunity or a challenge – rediscovering our humanity can help us make a positive difference in our lives and our community.
Life, learning, work – disrupted
The way we live, learn and work had already been disrupted by technological innovations, even before our current virtual working society made it a necessity. Many of you will recognise a daily routine that goes something like this.
You wake to the sound of the alarm on your phone and immediately start your morning routine of checking work emails and scrolling through social media to see what happened overnight. You enter your virtual office (otherwise known as The Kitchen) to take part in some remote meetings and Skype calls before catching up with your colleagues on Slack. You collaborate with people in a different country on an online presentation and then save it to the cloud for your manager to check later. In the meantime, you update your shopping list by talking to Alexa, and change the temperature of the room from your mobile phone. After you finish working, your online food delivery comes, and you enjoy it while watching your favourite show on Netflix. It’s a standard, recognisable workday, defined by conveniences unimaginable even a decade ago. But it also has limitations – you didn’t leave your home or talk to anyone face-to-face. And in the current crisis, we all better get used to it.
When facing this particular defining moment, where we need to stay human and connected without physically being together, we can perhaps learn something from Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO and a man with a visionary approach to how technology can transform human lives in any number of ways. When Amazon created the Kindle, they didn’t think ‘Let’s get rid of the book and come up with a new way to read books’ but rather ‘How can we keep everything that’s fantastic about a book and also add in the gifts of digital?’ Similarly, at Insights, our purpose right now is to understand – how do we keep everything that’s fantastic about humanity, and use our new virtual lives to make human communities even stronger?
We believe the best way of responding to any disruption is to focus on what really counts – human skills. There are certain traits only humans possess – flawed, brilliant, sometimes inefficient but always inspiring. Qualities that only deep and transformational self-awareness can uncover, such as empathy, really deep listening, speaking truth to power, aspiring to be part of a community, motivating others, and trying out new ways of doing things based on nothing more than good old-fashioned gut instinct. Not even the smartest and best technology can do what self-aware people can do.
Making human choices
Every day, we each make our choices. These can be as small as adding five extra minutes to a team call just to hang out and chat, or to drop a postcard to your team members who are struggling in isolation. As innovation and disruption continue to define how we interact with each other, the next decade is going to demand that we make choice after choice, either towards our shared humanity or away from it. We are all dealing with this shared defining moment, and we can only grapple with it in our own spheres of influence. What you choose to do matters. What I choose to do matters. It all matters, tremendously.
We believe that every single person is going to have to choose to rediscover their own individual humanity, and the humanity of others. We’re here to help as we cope with our changing world, and we’ll be here to help long after the new normal is established.
Andy is Chief Executive Officer of Insights Group, where he guides us to fulfil the Insights purpose - to create a world where people truly understand themselves and others and are inspired to make a positive difference in everything they do.