Humanology 1
May 13, 2020

Instead of Technology do you need more Humanology to innovate online?

By Ty Francis

In recent posts, I’ve shared advice to help you innovate, journey map & collaborate through digital tools – now let’s talk about Humanology.

Over-focussing on Technology as a solution in itself is a pitfall that I’ve highlighted over the years. The risk of being seduced by Analytics Software demos, fashionable technology or just Shiny Object Syndrome.

But during the current pandemic, our lockdown is causing even more leaders to focus on digital solutions. So, to balance that bias, I am glad to share this series of two posts from Ty Francis PhD. Ty is the founder of meus, plus a film-maker, facilitator & coach. So, well placed to explain Humanology.

You may recall that I’ve previously shared both a post by Ty (on who should be the hero of your brand story) and my summary of his workshop at the Welsh Coaching Conference. This time, I hand over to Ty to explain how Humanology can help us innovate even more than Technology…

Where are you looking for a solution?

One of my favourite stories is about the Sufi mystic, Nasrudin… A passing stranger saw Nasrudin one dark night, searching desperately for something on the ground. “What have you lost?” asked the stranger. “My key,” replied Nasrudin, with desperation in his voice. So, they both went on to their hands and knees to look for the key. After searching for some time, the stranger asked Nasrudin, “Where exactly did you lose it?” and the Sufi replied, “Outside my own house in the next street.” Confused, the stranger demanded to know why they were searching for the key in this place, to which Nasrudin replied, “Because the light is better here…

I think of this story when I think about online innovation – a subject many of my clients are preoccupied with right now. A common assumption is that the light of technology will illuminate the process of innovation. Yet, this has not been my experience…

Innovating online is not about technology. While technology has an undeniable part to play in innovation and transformation, it only provides possibilities for a competitive edge through efficiency gains and customer insight.

Defining Humanology

To innovate, we have to master “humanology” rather than technology. After all, it is the creative imagination which conceived technology, that is the key we must seek.

For me, “humanology” is the discipline of applying our understanding of what makes people tick – especially in the fields of innovation, collaboration and change – to the business of leadership and cultural transformation.

Five principles to apply Humanology when innovating

Five of the principles we work with at meus, in enabling innovation on both online and physical environments, include:

(1) Don’t create – Co-create!

Collaboration is the key, and harnessing the potential between people:

  • between teams across organisational silos;
  • between businesses, their customers and stakeholders;
  • and between sectors,

is absolutely essential because Innovation is a team sport.

Creativity depends on playfully making connections between things that – at first sight – don’t seem to belong together.

In my own business, we have gained a competitive advantage in the online training market by linking gaming technology with film-making and facilitation.

Diversity of thinking supports innovation and an online environment is a wonderful way to ensure cross-cultural collaboration. At Meus, we hold online ‘co-labs’ where we facilitate clients from globally-distributed teams to think together.

(2) Don’t come up with good ideas!

A research study some years ago got two groups of people to generate ideas. They had exactly the same brief, same time, same resources – but with one important twist: one group was asked to come up with ideas, while the other group was asked to come up with good ideas…

The surprise had nothing to do with the number of ideas generated… The surprise was that the quality of ideas of the group that did not have to focus on good ideas was vastly superior. It turns out that when we apply value judgments and quality criteria to our thinking, we decrease our capacity for innovation.

We are much better being naïve: a different study conducted over decades gave 50 strands of spaghetti and some tape to various groups who had to build the tallest structure possible. The worst-performing group? Business School students. The best-performing group? Kindergarten. Kids! So if you want your people to come up with better quality ideas don’t put quality criteria in their way.

Three more principles to follow

Thanks to Ty for those first two principles. Three more will follow in part 2 of this post, coming soon. In the meantime, perhaps you can try and guess what those would be.

In the spirit of what Ty has shared so far, which other principles would you use to guide this approach to innovation?