“Only by putting our humanity at the center can we truly thrive. That’s the essence of the Human Energy Revolution.” – Arianna Huffington, Thrive Global Magazine
If you’re reading news stories or social posts you’re probably inundated with updates and debates on the “AI revolution.” Proponents say it’s the biggest leap mankind has taken in productivity while naysayers insist it’s the beginning of the end of our autonomy as human beings.
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For right now never mind the AI revolution, we’ll get back to that in a minute. Let’s look at what Arianna Huffington calls the “human energy revolution.”
Pointing out that our model for life/work balance dates back to the Industrial Revolution when “humans were considered to be mostly vessels for work,” she compares the current search for a new normal in a post pandemic world to the Scientific Revolution of the 16th and 17th centuries. Until Galileo introduced the idea that the sun did not, in fact, revolve around the earth people had been very comfortable believing it was true. Until the pandemic humans were content (or at least complacent) with putting work in the center of their life and allowing their employers to put productivity in the center of their work culture. Just as Galileo’s insistence that there was evidence that pointed to the old ideas being factually incorrect started a revolution, Huffington believes that what we’ve termed “the Great Resignation” and “Quiet Quitting” are evidence that the old ideas of work are simply unsustainable.
I’ll confess, reading her article did give me a touch of the “prophet in her own land” syndrome because it’s what I’ve been warning clients (and anyone else who will listen) about for years. When I wrote The Human Team, many of the stories I shared were included for the express purpose of illustrating just how unsustainable those old ideas actually are. When I pioneered the Six Facets of Human Needs® I was working to capture the framework on which a new economy could flourish so that business leaders had something to put in the place of those old, broken, unsustainable ideas about what belongs in the center of life and work.
So while the unsustainability of the old idea of business isn’t new, it is getting new attention. I wrote last year about the United States Surgeon General’s statement on workplace toxicity, which was just one sign of the enormity of the problem. Huffington might point to “the Great Resignation” and “Quiet Quitting” as indications of a brewing revolution, but before that we had burnout, sick days, depression, and chronic stress-related illnesses.
Regardless how obvious it is that the old ideas don’t work, we can’t just invest in “solving the problem” or only focus on caring about humanity until the problem goes away. That’s like putting up a scaffold in order to reach the top of the building then neglecting it until it falls apart without building a solid staircase to take its place.
Instead we have to ask ourselves as leaders, “What does it look like to put humanity back in the center?”
That vision, of humanity in the center, perfectly positioned and supported in driving the economic future of the business, is exactly what I based my framework of the Six Facets of Human Needs® on. When we put our focus on what it means to be human, at work or anywhere else, we find that humans have universal needs. Dr. Maslow created a framework for understanding what humans need to reach personal self-actualization. The Six Facets of Human Needs® is a framework for understanding what humans need in order to reach their full potential as part of a team.
Without clarity you have confusion and uncertainty. No one knows if they’re doing the right thing or meeting expectations. No one knows if they’re prepared for what’s next because they aren’t clear on what is next. Humans that lack clarity have increased stress, it’s that simple.
Humans are social creatures, we’re instinctively feel safer when we feel connected, when we have a sense of belonging through a shared culture, physical or virtual spaces, and especially through core values. Without connection we experience insecurity.
Every human needs to feel they’re making a meaningful contribution. Not just that they’re doing something, but that they are doing something that makes a difference and is the highest and best use of their time, talent, and energy. Without that we feel insignificant.
There is a very important difference between feeling overwhelmed and being challenged. If all we have is more of the same, or more and more and more to do without the time, money, and resources to get it done we aren’t challenged, we’re drowning. Humans are wired to strive, we love the feeling of rising to a new challenge, without the ability to take on something that is possible but challenged we lack motivation.
We need to be considered for our value as a human being, not just for the value of the work we can accomplish. We need to feel seen and heard, to know that we have a voice. If we are not given that consideration we feel unappreciated, even unwanted.
It doesn’t matter how competent your people are if they lack the confidence to make decisions and take action. And no amount of reassurance or pressure to “just do it” can override the effect of leadership or a company culture that doesn’t instill confidence in the people on the team. In fact, reassurance or pressure, for a person who lacks confidence, simply results in higher and higher anxiety.
You can learn more about the cost of not meeting the human needs of your team by reading this article and/or The Human Team, but you’ve probably already seen that if these six needs, Clarity, Connection, Contribution, Challenge, Consideration, and Confidence, aren’t being met humans feel stressed, insecure, insignificant, unmotivated, unwanted, and anxious.
For an even more in depth and action focused understanding of the Six Facets of Human Needs™ download your free copy of The Future is Human, How to Achieve the Highest Levels of Success and Satisfaction in a Human-Driven Economy; a companion to The Human Team.
Here’s the other thing you’re probably seeing; when these needs are met as part of the company culture and leadership directives, never mind having stairs to take the place of the scaffolding, you have built a super-fast elevator! Having these needs met is like flipping a switch from being in self-protection and survival mode to having the focus and confidence to take on new challenges and achieve new heights. Now you have a team bringing their full humanity to work to initiate, innovate, and inspire in ways that no AI tool can match.
“The companies that succeed best will be those that focus on the humanity of work, and capitalize on what humans can uniquely do.” – Dov Seidman for Harvard Business Review
That’s the point that Dov Seidman makes in his article for Harvard Business Review titled “From the Knowledge Economy to the Human Economy.” He says, “In the human economy, the most valuable workers will be hired hearts. The know-how and analytic skills that made them indispensable in the knowledge economy no longer give them an advantage over increasingly intelligent machines. But they will still bring to their work essential traits that can’t be and won’t be programmed into software, like creativity, passion, character, and collaborative spirit—their humanity, in other words. The ability to leverage these strengths will be the source of one organization’s superiority over another.”
And that is where the AI Revolution dovetails with the Human Energy Revolution. When human needs are met and our humanity in central to our lives and supported and celebrated in the workplace humans have the capacity and capability to not only do what artificial intelligence cannot do, but more importantly, to be what nothing artificial can ever be – human.
A healthy culture and thriving human teams don’t depend on the innovative use of AI, although it can be part of the strategy. What is required is to put humanity back in the center, making it possible for people to be human at work, to activate the full potential of human energy, and to create cultures where people come alive instead of burning out.
The Future is Human, How to Achieve the Highest Levels of Success and Satisfaction in a Human-Driven Economy