Daily we wake up to new developments in automation, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and Machine Learning (ML). Across sectors and industries, automated solutions prove highly successful in surpassing the capacity of the human brain for certain tasks, improving productivity and efficiency. The applications for automation are growing exponentially, leading companies to place it at the forefront of their digital strategies.
Yet, (thankfully) the nuances of human experiences and emotions, and the resulting stories only people can tell, will continue to be critical in navigating challenges and architecting brilliant solutions to our most pressing problems. As this recent innovation in a tsunami warning system illustrates, AI and automation still rely on (the ideas of) people just as much as we rely on them.
As we continue to invest in automation and its influence accelerates and deepens, let’s also remember to invest in the magic of mortals—for the betterment of our workplaces, communities, and planet.
Here are four uniquely human experiences and emotions I suggest you should invest in, along with ideas on how to nurture them in your workplace.
Curiosity drives us to explore, learn, create, and solve. People who consistently seek to understand and fill in their own gaps in knowledge will more naturally engage in and approach their work as an opportunity for exploration and innovation. In today’s highly competitive market, you want your team to be comprised of curious people who are internally driven to develop cutting-edge, yet workable ideas and solutions.
Consider these ideas for nurturing curiosity in your team:
- Curate a “curiosity fair” in which people share the fruits of their curiosity (their hypotheses, research, next steps, solutions)—something less formal works too, just make sure time is carved out for exchanging ideas.
- Ensure people have uninterrupted, meeting-free time in which they can slow down and dig into their work, ask questions, and develop multiple possible solutions.
- Encourage and incentivize thought leadership. This past year I joined a team of environmentally focused Pariveda teammates to respond to the Amazon Sustainability Data Initiative (ASDI) Global Hackathon. Together, we brainstormed on ways to use data and technology to solve a real-world problem (climate change). Though our idea didn’t win, it was a company-sponsored opportunity (we met after client hours but got a stipend for dinner) for those of us curious about climate change solutions, to come together and flex our creative thinking and solutioning skills.
Resilient people make mistakes, even “fail,” but then process that failure in such a way that they learn and grow from the experience. Instead of getting stuck in a negativity spiral, resilient people sit with the discomfort temporarily, then brush themselves off and move forward. When your organization is undergoing changes and facing challenges, you want your teams to be comprised of resilient people.
How you might nurture resilience:
- Provide at-work opportunities for improving emotional health—for example, meditate together, try deep breathing exercises, or start a book club. A growth mindset, emotional intelligence, and mindfulness are excellent resiliency themes to consider digging into together.
- Create in-house materials and tools for your people. At Pariveda, a group of in-house resiliency curators have collated a resiliency toolkit of dynamic content for employees to utilize as desired.
- Don’t punish mistakes resulting from experimentation. Hold retros and discuss failure but encourage individuals and teams to embrace unsuccessful outcomes as opportunities to learn and grow.
Empathy drives us to understand the experience of others. If your business involves serving, collaborating, or partnering with people in any way, you need your teams to be comprised of individuals who can relate empathetically to others, thereby thoughtfully and intelligently anticipating and responding to the priorities, preferences, and goals of the people they work with. If we don’t take the time to get to know people and the stories they tell—what motivates them, what scares them—how can we expect to partner with them to drive valuable solutions?
Consider these ideas for nurturing empathy:
- Include active listening training in your onboarding materials and regularly practice these skills with your teams.
- Plan team trips to local art or history museums to learn about the experiences and perspectives of other people.
- Create opportunities for individuals to share their unique stories and perspectives. For example, at Pariveda, our monthly Racial Equity Series brings in keynote speakers who illuminate poignant topics around race in America. With this series, we raise our collective awareness and understanding and strengthen our capacity for empathy.
In Atlas of the Heart, Brené Brown legitimized my inkling that awe is essential to the human experience and worthy of fostering in the workplace. Brown states that:
“Researchers have found that awe leads people to cooperate, share resources, and sacrifice for others. It causes them to fully appreciate the value of others and see themselves more accurately, evoking humility.”
I would add that awe-filled people are likely to be less stressed, more innovative, motivated to experiment, and patient in landing on effective solutions to problems.
How you might nurture awe in your employees and teams:
- Start off team meetings by asking everyone to share a small or large recent experience that inspired awe—energized people can elevate an entire team and its work output.
- Encourage your team to unplug from work during their lunch break, and go for a walk, meditate, write, or read something inspiring.
- Plan an awe-filled outing (this is subjective of course) like a concert, a hike, or an immersive VR experience.
As we continue to invest in automation, Artificial Intelligence, and Machine Learning, they will continue to improve and increase their impact. But these technologies rely on the needs and impulses of people with lived experiences and emotions to energize them. What other aspects of the human experience do you consider essential to invest in for the betterment of our workplaces and planet?