What Technology Can’t Replace

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I had the privilege this week of speaking with two startups, one a client, the other not, both of whom are developing technology that helps bring people together in an offline, real world way.

Essentially, they are building apps that get you off the app.

And they aren’t the only ones. Recent updates from Apple and Google are designed to help people limit their smartphone usage (more on that here), driven it seems by a fair bit of impetus from the Centre for Humane Technology, among others, who are advocating for better ethics around technology. (Notice that word there: Humane.)

For all the talk and movement towards AI, there is an equal and opposite force for increasingly un-digital spaces in life. We want technology to enable real life, to be humane, to be engaging and relational. (It’s kinda obvious, but as a recent piece said, AI is not a community engagement strategy.)

Or, if we look at the other side of this coin:

“Personal relationships are the fertile soil from which all advancement, all success, all achievement in real life grows” – Ben Stein

There really is no replacement for human relationship. Heck, we even want to make our technology, our brands, and our AI more “humane” and “humanised” – our language gives it away.

My friend and reader Franz Sauerstein make this comment to on Twitter, actually: ANI [Artificial Narrow Intelligence] will be able to do anything in the next 15 years EXCEPT creative and social work. Engagement is getting more and more important. Companies who understand this truth will win. 

(Franz also pointed out this article, which is very good.)

It seems to me that, with a trend that is elevating human relationship back to where it should be in our priorities, before rather than after all our digitalisation, that the smart investment is in relationship. Yet, so few seem to make it. I’m constantly amazed at the poor people skills from people who are in service businesses, sometimes even something as basic as the lack of a hello, and that simplest of engagement techniques, a smile – let alone a proper engagement strategy (which, by the way, 90% of execs acknowledge they need, but 75% have done nothing about. Link to stats.)

The question, then, is how you are helping people in your team to become more relationally able? Do you even invest in it? Is there any training for how people can engage better, and thus invite more engagement?

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