We’re Going Back to Being Human

My good friend and associate Gareth wrote a piece this week called ‘Conversation is the New Currency’. I think the post is interesting and I disagree with his assertion about newness. Long before social media ever existed and (insert religious being of choice here) willing, long after too – conversation will be vital. It is indeed a currency older than the Roman Sestersius. The fag break, the lunch break, the hello on the way into work, the goodbye on the way out – all these and more existed long afore ye twitter and ye olde Facebookke.

Rob Jones has written a piece called ‘The One With the Wrong Era’, in which Rob challenges Gareth’s assertion through the lens of his father. Both these posts are well worth a read, and if you’re not already following Gareth and Rob on Twitter, I think you’ll get a lot of value from doing so.

I’m sitting in the sun, reading and absorbing all this stuff when I spot Matt Alder (yeah follow him too) tweet about Rob’s post. Matt said, ‘Agreed, we’re just going back to being human.’ I love it, we’re just going back to being human. If I was some kinda inspirational tweet guru I’d stick that top of my list, or at least on a t-shirt.

Before Frederick W Taylor came along and fucked everything with his well meaning and bonkers ideas around command and control, we used to get stuff done at least partly through talking with each other. Talking, learning, sharing; skills, ideas and methods. And as Rob’s post shows us, we still managed even though FWT’s ideas became widely adopted. Some of the best examples of engagement in the broadest sense and between the broadest range of stakeholders, occurs through the art of conversation. Yes we need to listen, do, feedback, improve, loop the loop and all that. But we’ve all been there. The best places we work are the ones where useful conversation helps to make work better, where the art of conversation is seen as inspiring, not inconvenient, winning not wasteful.

We’ll be talking more about this stuff at the upcoming Stop Doing Dumb Things event on June 27th if you’d like to join us (I couldn’t resist!), and it’s the subject of my talk at the Ohio SHRM in September, although Matt’s title is waaay better than the one I’m currently using (note to self – change it!).

We’re Going Back to Being Human. Thanks Matt.

photo credit


Author: Doug Shaw

Artist and Consultant. Embracing uncertainty, sketching myself into existence. Helping people do things differently, through an artistic lens.

4 thoughts on “We’re Going Back to Being Human”

  1. Where did i say it was new? *pushes highlighter pen across desk* 😉

    Indeed, we are going back to being human. And what is the catalyst for that move I ask you? Social technology i wager! As Dr Michael Wu puts it so splendidly:

    “Technology is slowly returning us back to the more human relationships that a fast paced world has pressured us into compromising.”

    Nuff said 😉

    1. Beg pardon, you called conversation the new currency, sorry if my post has created a different impression. To me, conversation has been one of a number of essentials for getting stuff done since, well since I could talk. These tools that we have available are just that, tools. You use ’em, I use ’em, lotsa people use ’em. And yet whizzy brands like Zappos believe the telephone is their number one customer service opportunity.

      Most people go to work for two main reasons, to keep their job and stay out of trouble. Sad but true. Perhaps what social tools will do for the masses is just scare them rigid? I hope not, and who knows? What fun we could have dissolving some of that fear 🙂

      I hope we can continue exploring this subject, face to face, maybe avec beer?

      Cheers – Doug.

      1. Beer sounds good 😉

        Ah! Well, “Conversation is the new currency” is not the same as “conversation is new.”!

        What it means is conversation (which is old and been around since the dawn of time as you suggest!) being leveraged in a new context. The conversation is changing things, forcing things to happen. And the social technologies are catalysts to increasing the conversation flow that we all see happening around us at the moment. Social technology is amplifying conversation – its helping a great deal to put conversation back on the agenda. Without the social and collaborative tools we wouldn’t have the amount of dialogue.

        Crucial to this is that the technology – or rather the places where we are hanging out – doesn’t “belong” to the organisation. Twitter is another pub, facebook another kitchen full of mates.

        The phone is indeed a powerful tool and thanks for the reminder. I presented to an audience yesterday and suggested that the phone is an endangered species! To be honest, we often forget its abilities. But the phone in most organisations is a blunt instrument simply because the organisation, and culture, controls the extent of the dialogue.

        Zappos – they get it right not because they use the phone. But because culture is their strategy – no prescriptions, just simple things like asking employees to do the best they can for the customer and trusting them to do so. Conversations internally – the crucial thing for me, and what im referring to largely in the post – happen openly and naturally in zappos. Their culture book is a great example – anyone can comment and ALL comments are included, no matter what.

        Ultimately this is what i am advocating – create the opportunity for open conversation internally, do not constrain it in any way. let everyone talk to each other the way Zappos employees do. Open up the dialogue. When the fear of doing so is removed, people then start to converse, build trust and do good stuff.

        Im not making any claims as such, because i dont have the evidence – or sufficient amounts to convince the scientists anyway 😉 – but i BELIEVE that if you do this, adopt this approach, you will achieve superior business performance.

        But then what do i know?

        Beer o’clock…

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