Posted 17/01/2017

Technology vs Human Instinct

What was your favourite Christmas present?

What was your favourite Christmas present last year? I bet for many – after the gift of time spent with loved ones – you either gave or received a gift of technology? Perhaps the latest voice controlled AI assistant, or something to measure your fitness, or to play with your kids?

I’ve worked in the technology sector for most of my life, in an IT business that is based around serious, high-level hardware and software. So you’d probably imagine that, yes, of course Mike makes the most of all the available technology, the latest bits of kit. It comes with the territory – and that is true to a certain degree. But there is one significant area where I do not want to enjoy, exploit or deploy technology. And that is my instinct. All the gizmos and the gadgets are there to free up my gut feeling. When I was at Telecity we took a conscious decision not to use video conferencing. This runs counter to current thinking: conferencing is the green option; the carbon footprint is minimal. But the way I work is by running a company on trust, on emotion. I don’t believe in running it on data, only verifying my decisions with data. I can get any analyst to tell me what I want to hear.

Trusting your own instincts

So I am a contradiction. I use online services religiously, deliberately to avoid human interaction but when I do business I want to experience that gut feeling, and I go to the person, go back to the basics. If I am going to invest £100 million in a new data centre or a new acquisition, I want to have the opportunity to look deep into the other person’s eyes, read their body language. I will get on a plane and go and see them. As well as trusting your own instincts – you have to trust, genuinely, the instincts of your staff. As every year passes, another cycle of Generation Net arrives in the workplace. This is creating a pressing business problem: how to manage people with hypertext scatterbrains. To do that you need to create knowledge space around values, articulate those values and your vision, and then rely on people to manage themselves.

Learn to work in tandem with your younger staff: those hypertext minds think in a completely different way, which you will need to understand and relate to. Allow your staff to manage their own time and they will be on call for you 24/7. And it might also help with the kids at home…

I’m just finishing my new book Live Love Work Prosper which is focused on how we can effectively manage the integration of all the important elements in our lives – and there is definitely a place for technology in this, though never to the detriment of real human connection – but could technology ever really become humanly instinctive?

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