In a perfect world, we’ll still have problems. Humans are a fickle bunch; we respond to our environment variably, context can completely alter our decision making, and we don’t always act in our true best interest. These qualities have much larger consequences at scale, making organizations (or, groups of humans working toward a similar, specific goal) a hotspot for problems. Whether it be HR, full-time employees or the ever-contentious C-suite, businesses fall time and time again to problem after problem. Very rarely are they exclusively the result of a technological failure, and nearly all of them start and end with humans.
At this point, you might be wondering where this ties in with the somewhat inflammatory title.
Let me explain.
Recognizing our own humanity will always be the key to true innovation.
We have seen technology do incredible things in the last half-century. Be it in finance, consumer goods, automotive, education, or nearly any other industry, the way we interact with the world has been transformed. Solutions we thought never to be possible are now commonplace. But it also magnified other problems. Advances in engineering give us new and beautiful things, but we now must figure out where to leave them when we’re finished. The Internet brought us closer together, but offers platforms to those seeking to drive us apart. Social media allows us to share our lives with each other, but perpetuates unattainable cultural ideals that drive mental illness and competition.
Our lives–which are so inherently human–are filled with human problems, human decisions, and human-impacted results.
Most of the time when we hear “new,” “better,” or “innovative,” we think tech. Innovation is a shiny app or new platform. With the rise of technology, which is designed to deal with or alleviate some of these human problems, it’s easy to lose sight of our own humanity.
Technology does not innovate. People innovate. Technology may be our means, but innovation ends with humans.
Why does this matter? Because the way we think about innovation is important. It has consequences for how we conduct business, analyze markets, and make decisions.
Every organization is only as strong as the humans behind it, from on-the-ground employees to high-level executives. And as technology’s presence becomes ubiquitous, we are faced with a choice when innovating. We can invest millions in making newer and shinier things (which, don’t get me wrong, has its place in innovation) or we can step back. Empathize. Look at a problem holistically. The result is a solution that is driven by a deep understanding of the humans who stand to benefit.
Technology doesn’t innovate because it isn’t supposed to. We innovate. We just have to remember how.