E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez

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Restoring the Human in Humanity by Simon Sinek

Gran Canaria - Roque Nublo's Surroundings in the SpringIf you would remember, I finished last Friday’s blog post with an inspiring and rather revealing quote that is still lingering in the back of my mind. More than anything else, because of how much it means in helping us all transform the corporate business world from what we have known and experienced over the last 30 to 50 years (that, by the way, doesn’t seem to have taken us very far, if we judge by the current econoclypse we have been going through for the last 4 years), as a way to prepare for the next 30 to 50 years into what real, meaningful, purposeful and sustainable growth is all about: “Corporations aren’t people, people are people“. 

So with that mantra still lingering around, and rather deep, I thought I would bring back the Inspiring Video of the Week series, since I have left it behind for a little while now, and I think I may have the perfect one to keep things going and still follow the flow of the reflections we shared in last Friday’s article “Racing to the Top Where Corporations Are People“. It’s, of course, another TEDx Talk, this time around in San Diego by the always insightful and rather stimulating Simon Sinek, who, over the course of a little bit over 12 minutes he came to talk about “Restoring the Human in Humanity“:


The presentation itself is from early 2011, but I am sure that after you watch it you would have to agree with me that it’s now fresher than ever, specially, as we keep embarking into figuring out a way of how we are going to provoke that social business transformation that we all keep raving about, but that it looks like it’s pacing itself slower than never. Probably, due to the fact that corporations are finally coming to terms with the realisation that it is no longer possible to put a stop to it, nor neglect it, nor ignore it. So you may as well embrace it at a good and comfortable enough pace to be able to disrupt the whole model of how business has been conducted over the last few decades.

And in this particular case Simon does a superb job at it, because, on his dissertation, he places the focus right where it belongs to make that transformation happen: the people. The knowledge workers themselves, once again. People who come together, because, after all, “humanity is made up of humans, of individuals”, and, like I have been saying over here for a long while now, we are social animals with an ability to form a community, a culture. He does a wonderful job in setting up the stage of what would define a community, a company, a nation: “it is a group of people with a common set of values and beliefs, where trust emerges as a distinctly human experience of individuals sharing that very same common belief”. WOW! Powerful stuff! 

He gets to talk further along during his presentation about how critical and rather important trust is, whether on a personal level, or on a work environment, although he keeps questioning why is it so tough to generate such trust at work versus our own personal lives. We have seen in the past, and over the course of time, indeed, how critical trust is in not only helping build healthy personal business relationships amongst knowledge workers, but, much more importantly, with customers and business partners. Yet, he brings up some excellent points as to why building trust in whatever the corporate environment is as paramount as being capable of striking a new kind of sustainable business growth. Trust becomes *the* new currency.

[By the way, if you are looking out there for some fascinating and delightful reads on the topic of trust and how much it disrupts the way we have done business putting humans back into the equation, I can strongly recommend you read these blog posts from my good friends JP Rangaswami (a.k.a. @jobsworth) and Rawn Shah].

His notion, Simon’s, that is, and further explanation of “The Split” is just pure genius. Precious little gem worth while going through on the presentation, because he links it, and rather accurately, to loyalty, a sense of fulfillment, a sense of purpose, of cause, before they fade away to no avail and with no turning point. 

And technology won’t help to bring it all back, since, according to Simon, it would make things happen faster, therefore becoming an accelerator of the wrong behaviours, amplifying, therefore, that Split: “Technology is wonderful for making connections, for exchange of information, for driving transactions. [However,] Technology is terrible for creating human relationships” [Emphasis mine]

This is the point in Simon’s presentation where things get really interesting, because he comes to postulate something that we may have just taken for granted for far too long and, of course, we are paying for it, right as we speak: “Human experiences require humans, not technology”. We keep starving for a human union which is, perhaps, one of the main reasons why we still keep going to face to face conference events. Seriously, what makes us go to live conference events, when technology can be a good enough substitute? Well, Simon keeps questioning that we have gone perhaps a bit too far, considering that a person should not be a luxury. That our mere survival depends on that notion, that is, not to take for granted individuals and those personal business relationships they have built over time, because, essentially, what we need is more human interaction, to shake hands. According to him, we need handshake leadership (Gosh, I *do* love that expression!), we need to have handshake conversations, handshake friends, handshake dialogues, handshake meetings. You name it. We just need to bring back the human spirit into all of the interactions we keep getting involved with. It’s eventually what makes us all more humans, with that rather strong sense of autonomy, decision power by lowering down the centre of gravity, co-ownership, co-responsibility, in short, smarter work. For everyone.

Goodness! I know! At this point in time your head is probably spinning just as much as mine is, but to be honest, the icing on the cake is this absolutely brilliant quote from his presentation that I think needs to become everyone’s motto, mantra, mojo or new career aspiration, or just simply a redefinition of the corporate knowledge worker of the 21st century: essentially, we need to put ourselves in situations where “we can create real human connections” and “where trust becomes a standard, and not the exception“.

Truly outstanding! Let’s not forget about that, please, and let’s keep it in mind for every single human interaction that we carry out on a daily basis. Starting today, tomorrow. And always. Only then would we be capable of achieving a stronger sense of human awakening. 

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  1. Thanks for this post and the video, Luis. I love his talks. Like the one about asking why. http://youtu.be/u4ZoJKF_VuA
    I’m wondering what the implications of this is for the size of companies. We need more human interaction, says Sinek. Doesn’t this imply we need smaller organizations? Organizations that reckon with the Dunbar number for instance. I know of a Dutch business man who split his companies when they grew bigger than 100-150 employees (which is the Dunbar number…). Because when they grew bigger people didn’t know and trust each other anymore, bureaucracy grows, etc. They split, like Sinek says.
    Or can large companies work only if they go podular, like Dave Gray says?

    1. Hi Samuel! Thanks a lot for the feedback and for that lovely recommendation on that other presentation from Simon! Perfect timing for the upcoming weekend to go and digest it! Thanks much! 🙂

      That’s a very interesting perception and I can imagine that’s one trend that’s going to modulate how we would interact as organisations. To be honest, except for the odd multination, large enterprise biz out there, I think we are going to start witnessing how more and more biz are going to shrink to the point where they are going to become much smaller in size. Plenty of large businesses are starting to think about optimising their workforce and reducing them significantly converting those knowledge workers into freelancers, which means organisations will become a lot smaller, a lot more focused. And we are going to witness the creation massive networks of freelances shifting work amongst themselves that are going to help balance the traditional concept of an organisation.

      That’s happening already, and I suspect it will help transform the way we interact and redefine the workplace of the future. Podular sounds like a rather interesting interim solution while we reach that giant ecosystem of networks mixing and mingling with one another into smaller, more permissive, transient sets of interactions 🙂

  2. There are several things that resonate for me in the video. First Milgram. 40 years ago, concluding his Ascent of Man series Jacob Bronowski, alluding to these experiments, declares that we have to “close the distance between the push button order and the human act. We have to touch people.”


    A couple of years ago, I recall when first diagnosed with leukaermia saying to those treating me that I coped mentally by focussing on something bigger than myself. That was and is, an approach to business with a primary focus of human beings, an economics for humanity.

  3. It is the issue of our collective impact, through doing business which takes us to a fundamental predicate for a new approach to business where no human is disposable. In the core argument for this ‘people centered’ approach it was reasoned that money imagined into existence as debt, threatened the lives of those least able to compete. It leads to a proposal for business with a primary social objective. http://economics4humanity.wordpress.com/2012/05/26/you-me-we-ethics-and-people-centered-economics/

  4. Hi Luiz, Hope everything is fine? I found a link back to your fantastic blog post and it’s like the circle is closing. I was suggested reading the linked article in your blog post. The Why and purpose related to trust is what attracts me. I can also assure that the presence you always showed during the IBM IQ Ambassadors meetings gave a strong impact on me and it has nothing to do with the size of a company. It’s about the people! I also think that IBM’s values also created trust and the IBM culture which got people to feel as they belonged to something bigger than themselves.

  5. Pingback: Humanity

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