In the last fifty years or so our daily work routines have been greatly aided by various technical innovations. Likewise, lengthy and heavy tasks at industrial enterprises have been automatized and computerized. Businesses and research facilities invest abundantly in technological innovations.
Although making certain tasks easier to complete and less physically demanding, the automatisation of the heavy workload production tasks and daily chores does not seem to make people feeling happier. Often, it confuses people. It is visible, for example, in the indexes of happiness and suicides. Paradoxically, a number of Western European countries have some of the highest indexes of happiness as well as some of the highest (for Europe) suicide rates (e.g., Finland, Switzerland, Sweden).
Switzerland remains in the top five countries in the United Nations’ World Happiness report (2018) and in the top ten countries in the OECD suicide rate statistics (2016).
Undoubtedly, there are numerous reasons behind these numbers. Yet, the lessening of the value of the real human interaction due to the technological advances is something we should not rule out as the key determinant of our happiness-unhappiness levels. Social capital (as human interactions are known in the scientific literature) is essential for our life satisfaction and overall happiness. Numerous studies report positive effects of having friends, being married, having a family, participating in social activities and having clubs’ membership on the levels of individual life satisfaction.
In the times of technological revolutions we lose the real value of human contacts. Technological innovations are supposed to simplify our lives but not replace them. This is particularly true for the present times when many of us use the latest technologies in order to minimize or even to avoid altogether any chances of live interactions with other humans.
Another downside of technological advances is the feeling that people are replaceable. Nowadays, high-tech machines perform operations much better and faster than skillful workers. While this situation is highly profitable for businesses, people feel being left behind, unneeded and underqualified to compete with machines. The older generations in particular fear for their job prospects and possibilities to be made redundant. There are only a few countries, which have developed a well functioning system of people’s retraining.
Can we strike a proper balance between technological innovations and social capital or are we doomed to experience the worth science-fiction predictions? There is still time to turn the clock back and reinvest into human interactions. This can be done at different levels. Businesses may reconsider the balance of their investments into technology versus human resources. At the same time, a lot can be done at the level of personal interactions. We might be surprised to see the impact some of the simplest choices might have on people around us!
Recently, we have had a chance to witness this at the Gross Leadership. A few weeks ago together with the Premium Business Network we organised a networking event. More than expected participants have registered for the event bringing up the numbers to over 80 leaders (heads of departments and divisions, business owners from a vast variety of industries). As a result, we had no choice but to change the venue.
We decided to inform the participants about those last-minute changes via email and personally (by phone), making it certain that participants learn about the change of the venue. We were nicely surprised to feel the emotions our choice of the means to contact the participants had generated! Many people thanked us for taking time and contacting them personally. They expected to receive an email or a letter at best.
This situation made me to think: Are we missing something essential when we simplify our interactions through the means of technology? Doesn’t it affect our chances to understand another person? And by implication, doesn’t it affect our prospects of future cooperation?
I am keen to hear your ideas on this. What is your experience and your opinion?
By the way, our next exclusive networking event will take place on October 17th, 2019 in The Dolder Grand, Zurich.
“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players…”
(W. Shakespeare, As You Like It)
We believe that each and every one of us is not only a leading actor but first and foremost a writer of our own destiny. Overwhelmed by life events, we may unintentionally forget that we are the sole playwrights of our own lives. We may even unwittingly drop or lose the thread of our unfolding life story. Then, we start questioning ourselves and let others do the writing for us. Doesn’t this happen to all of us occasionally? The best thing we can do is to resume the leadership as soon as we can: only we should write the play of our life!
With the renewed confidence and new skills, we design new perspectives. Coaching and training are the best instruments we use to achieve this goal.