Humans are Underrated - Notes

The new high-value skills are instead part of our deepest nature, the abilities that literally define us as humans: sensing the thoughts and feelings of others, working productively in groups, building relationships, solving problems together, expressing ourselves with greater power than logic can ever achieve. These are fundamentally different types of skills than those the economy has valued most highly in the past.

Advancing technology has improved the material well-being of humanity more than any other development in history, by far.

An important reason, Summers says, is ‘the nature of the technical changes that we have seen: Increasingly they take the form of capital that effectively substitutes for labor.’

So this mysterious human ability to read another person’s emotions turns out not to be all that mysterious. Computers can do it too.

Social interaction is what our brains are for.

Empathy is universal. People everywhere admire generosity and disapprove of stinginess. We all cry, and we all make jokes. All cultures create music with melody. Everyone dances. All societies have aesthetics and create decorative art. We all have a concept of fairness, and we all understand reciprocity. We all have pride. We all tell stories.

Every society has leaders.

We really do carry certain deep-seated tendencies. Understanding them will help us figure out how we can best serve each other in a world where technology fulfils ever more of our wants.

The computing visionary Bill Joy likes to point out that jet travel is faster than walking by a factor of one hundred, and it changed the world. Nothing in our experience prepares us to grasp a factor of a million.

What are the activities that we humans, driven by our deepest nature or by the realities of daily life, will simply insist be performed by other humans, regardless of what computers can do?

Instead, employers’ top priorities include relationship building, teaming, co-creativity, brainstorming, cultural sensitivity, and ability to manage diverse employees’ right-brain skills of social interaction.

‘If you’re afraid that you might be replaced by a computer, then you probably can be – and should be’.

Tomorrow’s most valuable engineers will not be geniuses in cubicles; rather, they’ll be those who can build relationships, brainstorm, collaborate, and lead.

The most valuable people are increasingly relationship workers.

Being a great performer is becoming less about what we know and more about what we’re like.

After five days of only in-person interaction, the students were far more emotionally insightful than they were before.

When pre-existing pairs of friends talk in person, they bond more closely than when they talk by video, which in turn yields closer bonding than talking by phone.

Interacting virtually rather than in person blocks deep-seated mechanisms that make us more effective in working together. When two people talk to one another face-to-face, their brains synchronize.

‘Empathy and other interpersonal skills are as important as proficiency in English and mathematics in ensuring young people’s employment prospects.’

Customers were far more likely to recommend American Express to a friend, profit margins rose, and employee attrition dropped by half, which in a company of that size meant millions of dollars of incremental profit. Empathy was at its heart.

Research finding that ‚waiters who are better at showing empathy earn nearly 20 percent more in tips

Michael Trimble concludes, in scientific language, that ‘evolutionary selection must have favored cerebral mechanisms that allowed for the rapid evaluation of the emotional state of a conspecific.’

Social media are the enemy of empathy,

‘A decline of empathy and a rise in narcissism are exactly what we would expect to see in children who have little opportunity to play socially.’

It eventually dawned on leaders across the U.S. military that something extremely important had been discovered even beyond the astonishing effectiveness of the training principles used. It was something larger – that the technology was much less influential than the abilities of the humans using it.

Today’s Army is the only large organization that has institutionalized introspection at all levels up and down echelons.’

More than ever, work today gets done in teams, and every team is a social unit. The quality of its social interactions – intrateam and interteam – determines its success or failure.

Teams are becoming more important to the success of organizations and of individuals.

The most important advances in virtually every field have always involved collaboration and are increasingly being achieved by clearly defined groups.

Overwhelmingly. In science and engineering, for example, work by a team is 530 percent more likely than an individual’s work to be cited 1,000 times or more. The authors of this huge study conclude: ‘The process of knowledge creation has fundamentally changed.’

humans working in groups are more crucial to the success of organizations (and whole economies), and the ability to work in groups is more crucial to the success of individuals.

What meant a lot, however, was social sensitivity. Group members each took a widely used test called ‘Reading the Mind in the Eyes’, which requires you to choose a word that best describes people’s thoughts or feelings based only on photos of their eye region. If you wanted to predict a groups’ effectiveness, the best thing you could do was look at the members’ average score on that test. Conversational turn taking also made a big difference; groups dominated by a few talkers were less effective than those in which members took more equal turns.

Another way to predict the most effective group was much simpler: Just count the number of women. That’s because in this research and much other research, women perform a great deal better than men in measures of social sensitivity.

The effects were so clear that the bank switched to team-based breaks at all its call centers, estimating the move would save $15 million a year.

Evidence is clear that face-to-face interaction is far richer and more effective than is the fragile, meager digital version in building trust, cooperation, and the patterns of behavior that make groups effective.

Pentland and his colleagues realized that unspoken social signals – who’s talking, how much, in what tone, interrupting or not, facing toward whom and away from whom, gesturing how – told them all they needed to know about the performance of a group.

He quotes Jobs: There’s a temptation in our networked age to think that ideas can be developed by e-mail and iChat. That’s crazy.

The socially based teams were 30 percent more effective than the cognitively based ones. The main reason, also unsought by the researchers, was likewise emphatically clear. It was the seemingly irrational culture of the socially based teams and the greater, deeper interaction that resulted.

Helping behaviors ‘unexpectedly turned out to be more powerfully associated with team effectiveness than any other factor assessed in the research.’

..the extra endorphins seem to result from subsuming one’s own efforts in the group’s efforts. Members of the most effective intelligence analysis teams, and of the best teams in general, actually aren’t behaving crazily. They get a highly rewarding buzz from rejecting the goal of personal gain in favor of the group’s success.

Nonetheless, by the time Jobs stepped down as CEO in August 2011, the six-executive inner circle he had assembled had been working as a team for thirteen years,

‘The National Transportation Safety Board found that 73 percent of the incidents in its database occurred on a crew’s first day of flying together.

We discovered that it wasn’t the story that was having the impact but storytelling.

We humans aren’t moved by a story unless we can evaluate the teller, decide whether he or she is trustworthy, and gauge the true passion that he or she brings to it.

But we don’t really care about stories. What we care about is effective storytelling, and that is entirely human – an innately, deeply human exchange.

Regardless of what happens along the way, our response to a story depends heavily on what happens at the very end. It’s truly crazy. But it’s the way we are.

Humans must solve these problems because in real life, we’re seldom sure what the problem really is, and since humans are ultimately in charge of shaping an organization’s goals, or their own, humans must continually redirect the most creative efforts to solve the problems.

Google. The company is fanatical about forcing people to connect in person.

The closer we are, the more we communicate, and the more we communicate, the more and the better we create.

It shows that the RME test is an excellent predictor of a group’s collective intelligence – in fact, the best predictor of any factor the researchers measured.

Starting at age one, girls are more likely to respond empathically (through sad looks, sympathetic sounds, comforting) to the distress of others. By age three, they’re better than boys at figuring out the thoughts and intentions of others, and they never lose their advantage. Women are better than men not just at reading eyes but also at nonverbal communication generally, such as reading tone of voice and facial expressions. Women value reciprocal relationships more highly than men do. Men value power and competition more highly than women do. Empathy disorders, such as psychopathic personality disorder, are far more common among men. Murder, which Baron-Caron rather drily calls – the ultimate example of lack of empathy, is of course overwhelmingly male instigated. The way girls talk is much more cooperative and collaborative than the way boys talk, and girls can keep a conversation going longer than boys can.Girls show more concern for fairness than boys do. Boys share less than girls.

Thus a big deficit in empathy is apparently a two-step process. It requires a brain that has been primed by a lot of testosterone before birth plus extra shots of the hormone in daily life.

Competing for status poisoned a group’s effectiveness regardless of gender composition. It destroyed the performance advantages that women bring to a group.

The social sensitivity of women helps group members collaborate more effectively in two critical ways. First, it gets more ideas out

onto the table. Because women are more likely than men to share the conversation equally, and are better at sensing when someone wants to speak, female groups get more contributions from everyone. Second, as group members discuss ideas, women are better able to sense how others feel about each idea. So female groups can more accurately gauge the group’s collective judgment of all the options proposed.

More ideas and better judgments – those are what make groups effective. But when group members can compete for status, the female advantage, at least in creating collective intelligence, gets shut down. The conversational turn taking, the body language to build rapport, the subtle vocal cues to indicate approval or disagreement – hey can all become disadvantages when someone is trying to establish dominance.

The more sisters a man or a woman has, the more likely that person is to be prosocial.

In addition, companies that realize where their fortunes lie are using innovative methods to build the social abilities of employees.

The company is also interested in every applicant’s collaborative nature.

Dozens of medical schools around the world encourage or even require the reading of fiction, because it helps build skills of social interaction. It helps to develop and nurture skills of observation, analysis, empathy, and self-reflection – skills that are essential for human medical care’.

…the transition to the newly valuable skills of empathizing, collaborating, creating, leading, and building relationships is happening faster than corporations, governments, education systems, or most human psyches can keep up with.