Technological advancements are important,
but do not neglect human relationships
WHAT is needed for the future is often said to be an innovative culture and mindset, and organisations today are faced with an increasing challenge to come up with ingenious ideas, products and methods of delivering services to customers.
Countries and governments are in the business of reinventing themselves, certain that new, innovative solutions will be the panacea to stagnation and the cornerstone for advancement.
There is nothing wrong with the quest for more and more scientific breakthroughs. However, the modern tenets of innovation have been anchored on science, technology and engineering.
Has this quest for knowledge and technology made the human race more or less human? The advent of communications technology, for example, was based on the proposition that it can make life more efficient and convenient.
However, what has been lost is the fundamental ability to simply sit and be with another person. People seem to have lost the capacity for intimacy and for building relationships.
What is drying up are relationships, not new ideas. A limit has been reached in human interaction, not innovative schemes.
This is illustrated by what a Generation Y person told me: Relationships are necessary, but best kept minimal for easy maintenance. How else could people find time for themselves given the busy life everybody now leads? The conclusion I drew was that relationships are, at best, tolerated; at worst, not developed.
In busy cities, people barely know who their neighbours are, until they need to ask for help to do chores like watering the plants or taking in the newspaper while they are away.
Technology in the office has greatly minimised the opportunities for human contact – rather than walk over the phone, people send e-mail messages. Well-intentioned teambuilding and gold sessions are organised for networking purposes, not for getting to know one’s colleagues.
But even as human contact with one another declines, management gurus and great thinkers talk about the importance of harnessing the collective talent of people, how survival depends on more than the genius of one top thinker in any organisation, and other superficial attempts at teambuilding.
The truth is, build meaningful relationships and the ideas will come. The continual neglect of relationships will only lead to more territorial issues, erosion of trust and the breakdown of information, understanding and teamwork.
To ensure a bright future for organisations and countries, do not just focus on making money and absorbing knowledge, take time to build genuine relationships with one another. You will find that the investment in social development pays dividends too.
Article contributed by Jacqueline Wong, an organisational learning consultant and coach. Her company, Sequoia Consulting, conducts workshops on leadership, change, and organisational learning.