Machine vs human: Who needs that holiday anyway…

August can be a quiet month. Lots of us are on holiday, many for two weeks, and all at different times. It can feel like there is no-one in the office sometimes.

And, despite our best efforts to move things forward, especially at speed, progress is like walking through mud… yet another delay while we wait for someone to return from holiday and get up to speed again…

Take a break

Of course, we all need to take a break. There is after-all only a week or so left and all will be back to usual.

However, this is also a great time to work on other things too – soft skills, spending time with colleagues, and getting to know them a little better. We need to make the most of this while we can. It is much easier now when things are a little more relaxed and will help, being a better team, once everything ramps up again in September proper.

This is also true for clients, customers and prospects… that is if they are not in the office, running around trying to keep the lights on with everyone else out… although this is a slightly different issue, also something you can also support too, to great relief no doubt!

So this can be a great time to reach out, make contact and build relationships. It all helps to be informed, ready, and able to better support in the future.

So with this in mind I spent the last week or so reaching out to folks and making contact, old and new. It has been a busy time.

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However in doing this, one of the things I noticed was around my psychology, especially expectations on speed of response and it got me thinking about how this has changed in our automated, digital world.

I Robot

These days we all like to think we live in a fast-paced world… everything happens at speed and all interactions need to be as instantaneous as possible… and we enjoy it.

Think about Just In Time manufacturing and 24-hour Prime delivery and how popular they are. It is in our psyche.

And this is happening back in the office too… In our relationship with communication, co-workers and processes… speed is king and is what we expect.

I seemed to first notice this with the blinking light on the Blackberry, a new email, and something that needs to be addressed or actioned… and an almost Pavlovian response. But, this behaviour has now also spread to all emails, Teams, Slack, WhatsApp and SnapChat…. just ask any teenager, an instant response is a good response, or at least expected.

So have we been trained and come to expect instant response, by our own machines (and processes)… and on the flip side, do we also now feel the pressure to give instant responses too…?

Not a machine?

Yet, sometimes it is good to reflect that we are not really machines. Not ones engineered to perform narrow processes, made out of metal and plastic, at least.

We like to think of ourselves being equivalent, equal or better to our creations, but at a human scale, things can also take time and in fact we are just different.

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I was acutely reminded of this, this week, sending all my emails, calls, invites, LinkedIn posts and interactions. It was easy after all to send lots out (like a machine)… yet the response took time. Some responded quickly, but many took time and the response built over a few days. (Or to explain it in human terms… other people are busy too 🙂 ). Fundamentally this was a human interaction and process…

It was all easy for my brain to run ahead, get frustrated and especially compared to my expectations of response times…

Don’t get frustrated

Undoubtedly our relationships with engineering, computers, and processes have been a marvel of the modern world. It has quite literally transformed our way of living and created the world we live in today. I cannot complain really.

However, by its nature, this also requires very exact, timebound, and transactional thinking. Ambiguity and emotion are easily removed from the process.

In some ways this is the machine’s strength, it keeps things running on time, and if it runs well you simply turn up the speed to increase the output.

However, this is not how we, as humans, work. Trying to keep up can feel like we are on that proverbial hamster wheel – it is trying to live on machine time.

Human brains are complex, organic, massively parallel but relatively slow chemical structures. We have become good at compensating for our lack of raw processing speed by using ingenuity to find shortcuts and underlying mechanisms to understand the world. Just look at our history of scientific theories, maths, behavioural models and even how we create dinner, it is just something we do.

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We are good at dealing with ambiguity, and complexity, being creative, considering all the pros, cons, second or even third-order impacts – decisions… Just sometimes this process takes a little longer.

So we need to consider giving ourselves a break, until the end of the summer at least.

Sometimes the quick response is not always the best response and it is worth being patient, letting ideas and relationships mature… naturally… in human time.

Have a good week everyone.


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