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Seth Godin: Why being human is the only way to win

Bestselling author and MIX Maverick Seth Godin describes the fork in the road that every worker and company faces today. Are you racing to the bottom or exerting your humanity?

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nan-mehta's picture

Thank you for the great insights and foresight. I do agree with you that in order for organizations to continue their success well into the future; they will need humans at work rather than robots. The next step is to tell/show organizations how to create an environment that brings out the humans in their employees rather than create robots. At the same time, we need to develop leaders who support and reward humans rather than managers that support and reward robots. Organizations need to be provided and shown how to with the "best practices" from companies like Google, Pixar, Disney, etc. Those companies that have the experience of bringing out the human in all of their employees can share their recipe with the rest of us.

alexis-adair's picture

A bit of a tangent here, but if the company hiring the barista really thinks they want the cheapest guy they can find, they're ignoring the importance of that role as front-line marketing and branding for the organization, and how crucial the barista is to the customer's experience of the brand, and the organization as a whole.

I do love the idea that "the problem with a race to the bottom is that you might win".

Also, a thought on the "good jobs" going to humans, versus automation or standardization. I just read The Economist's "In Praise of Misfits" (, and they mention the organization Specialist People (, which aims to place people with autism-spectrum disorders in jobs for which they are particularly suited. It's worth keeping in mind that the human condition encompasses a wide variety of capabilities, and that "normal" isn't the only one available. Every variation can have something valuable to add, and the definition of a "good job" may vary for different humans.

wouter-de-valk's picture

May I argue for a nuance when it comes to "automitized" or standardized tasks: It's not necessarily jobs that are fully standardised. We make them so.

Lessons from LEAN teach us that even them most standardized jobs improve when given the "humane" opportunity to consider improvements.

However, the writer Atul Gawande in his book "The checklist manifesto" argues for more standardization of completely or mostly autonomous jobs, like doctors.

It comes down to our awareness of where standardisation is useful, and where our "humanity". Hall and Johnson (2009) made the distinction between processes that are run on scientific basis, i.e. standardization and art, i.e. judgment-based.

I would argue: As soon as a task can be standardized, do that fully, by exploiting our collective mechanisation and automation capabilities. The process of recognition and standardisation itself is humane. It will help us establish a wedge supporting our improvements in the upward pressure of human development.

bernd-nurnberger's picture

Agree on one hand, the polarization may become more obvious between organizations and between regions. Agree on the other hand, in business it is often about finding and maintaining, then questioning all over again, dynamic balance. Standardized routine, coordinated improvement, open space self-organization, and blue ocean creativity, all have their place in between and connecting the extremes.

Being human about it to win is my takeaway today. Looking forward to the next ten years. Let's review in 2022.

luc-galoppin's picture

I second that nuance.
We have to be careful not to throw out everything that smells like automation and standardization. We just need to be smarter in the process of recognition and standardization.

Thanks for that nuance.

greg-stevenson's picture

If you try to think of one word to describe what it means to be Human I would think that "LOVE" would be right up there.

Love is really hard to define. We tend to use things like the opposite of Love is Hate, or the opposite of Love is indifference.

I put it to you that the opposite of Love is Fear. To do what Seth describes, we need to bring Love to Work, and to enable that to happen we must drive out Fear. Actually we need to do both simultaneously in one system. To create this system we need to look to the "Symptoms of Love".

frederic-jleconte's picture

Energy. Moments. Normality.Choices.

Very refreshing questions.
Especially within work environment equations.