Being Radically Human.
A few years back, I was flying from a storytelling workshop in Hong Kong to another in Kuala Lumpur the next day. I'd raced out of the HK hotel to the airport to make my flight on time, and by the time I landed in Malaysia it was midnight. It had been a long, hard day on my feet, and I still had to clear immigration plus another 1 hour taxi ride downtown.
So, by the time I arrived at the Novotel it was 2am. I was deadbeat. And not relishing the prospect of being woken in 5 hours to deliver another full-day storytelling workshop.
I wearily dragged my suitcase across the marbled floor of the hotel's echoing expansive lobby, barely able to put one foot in front of the other (no, I hadn't been drinking on the flight!). There was no one around bar a solitary receptionist at the far end. As I reached the check-in counter, she looked up and said: "Passport please."
What a failing of humanity. What a loss of a moment to reach out to me as a fellow human being and not just as a booking number in her reservation system.
Any number of responses would have been an improvement on that. "Good evening," for example. Or, "You look really tired, did you have a long flight," or "Can we call you a doctor, sir, because you look like shit."
The problem is she was doing her job. And step #1 in her process probably says "Ask Guest for passport. Step 2: photocopy passport, etc ..."
And how often do we encounter front-liners who are TRANSACTING not INTERACTING?
The latter is the more human approach. Engage as a human first. An art/skill that seems to be lost in the world's mindless charge towards BIG Is Good, so BIGGER must be Even Better.
Bullshit! That's just bean-counters achieving economies of scale.
As marketeers, we have a golden opportunity right here right now because of this. To be smaller. To individualise and personalise. To bring it back down to the scale of one. Human scale.
THAT is being radically human!
Steve Hilton, author of the book More Human, says:
"We have designed and built a world that is inhuman. It’s all become too big and distant and impersonal. It’s time for a real shake-up to make the world more human: people, relationships, spontaneity, emotions."
Head of TED, Chris Andersen has a similar riff:
"What are humans for?" he asks. "Humans are for being more human than we’ve ever been."
As we debate about whether robots are going to take over our jobs or not, that should be your first line of thought. What am I doing to future-proofing myself by being radically human today? How are we future-proofing our business by being radically human?
On the upside, that experience gave me great fodder for the next day's workshop. Especially when I arrived at the breakfast area, to be greeted by a cheery: "Room number, please."
I'm pleased to say that since then, Accor has introduced their 'From the Heart' campaign.
I love the stance. But it'll only work if at every turn and contact surface, they are working genuinely from the heart. Let's see.