Human versus machine? The quantum energy of human beings
Perry Timms gives three crucial tips for employers to consider when thinking about the energy and performance of their employees.
I’ll start with a confession - I am a lifeaholic. I just happen to love life I guess and I’m energised by life itself and the life I’ve built. I love what life brings and that includes things like work and art and music and play. I recognise though, that despite my fascination with the Marvel Comics universe, we aren’t THAT endowed with superhuman powers. Energy - the thoughts we create and the actions that come from those - aren’t infinite. The brain is a muscle and depends on electrical impulses to power it (including glucose as an energy source) and we have discovered that neurons and impulses aren’t just in our heads. Hence gut feeling and the sense of something in our hearts.
So it’s human energy that brings me to write this piece as a suggested collaboration between me - independent mind and business - and BrightHR - a business of independent minds. Intrigued by their writing on holidays I took a different approach to this and offered this guest post.
I met someone last year whose PhD research was so interesting it caused sparks to fly in my mind and soul. That we humans not only create energy but emit it. We have a quantum source of energy that sends signals out to the cosmos. This has been taken to a new level by Russian scientists and used in everything from athletes and their performance levels, to pre-emptive medical condition diagnosis. It fuses - quite amazingly - eastern wisdom and mystic practices (Yoga, the Chakras) with computer aided data capture and analysis.
Anyway, I’ll leave that one there for now as perhaps another form of proof of the likely Singularity and coming together of biology, physiology and technology.
This piece is about the way we treat ourselves and each other.
As mechanistic parts of the work machine. We have Taylorist scientific management to perhaps thank / blame for this. The production of pins and the FW Taylor / Henry Ford production line theory, codified human endeavour into repetitions of work as algorithmic application of labour to build/produce things.
Yet we know we’re such a variable “organic machine”. We are affected by mood, illness, fatigue in a way that machines simply aren’t. We can feel good and produce stellar outputs. We can feel low and produce but without any extra outputs or dimensions.
It’s the flow of our human energy that has intrigued all behavioural scientists for aeons.
What are the prime conditions for the continued application of high-performance human endeavour?
Simply put, there’s some archetypes for this but largely, they’re variable. Because we’re variable. Utterly unique versions of being a human being and a part of a workforce.
The BrightHR piece I mentioned earlier, talked about holidays and the bizarre ritual we have that after an elongated break from production and machine-like application of ourselves, we thirst for the next break from the norm. We aspire to relax somewhere and will work to earn that right. Yet we have to have this light on the horizon and this aspiration to fuel us to do good, up to the point we disconnect from the matrix again and head to the hills for rest and relaxation. Recuperation even.
Much of the athletic and sporting world science is making its way into the world of business. Yet really, we’re talking about different conditions and tenuous links to productive and outstanding achievement. Be careful of adopting the Usain Bolt approach to working in a call centre. Does it really translate?
Yet what we DO know, is that we have these variable patterns of the flow of our energy and the creation of our best self. What we also know is that physical activity can trigger mental high performance. We know that sedentary existence can cause mental under-revving. We know that for some people, long hours is a preferred feature and for others, short intense bursts will always be the best. Some people are best in the morning, others later in the day.
Cal Newport has written a fantastic book called Deep Work looking at how we can concentrate in an ever distracting world. It is just one example of trying to channel our energy in the right direction and towards the right things that will give us the best from our time and our day.
Mindfulness, meditation and the contemplative nature of slower more calming routines are being introduced as antidotes to hype-busy and stressed our existence. Will they work for us? It depends I guess on whether you believe they will.
So I think we’re headed towards a mix of personal grasp and application of our energy coupled with technological support and data, to provide stimulating interventions and short-cutting routines to being more effective and fulfilling in our lives.
How might we become more tuned to our own energy?
Firstly, I think we can develop people’s understanding of themselves as a variable vessel of energy by adopting something akin to Emotional Intelligence (EQ). Energy Intelligence (NQ maybe?). Helping people understand their energy flows; what brings them to life; what is hard to rev up about yet yields low returns. And use this to help them manage those energy states through fluctuation in patterns of work; applying physical and kinetic-based activities and as Arianna Huffington is now advocating good sleep.
Secondly, I think we stop looking at people through mechanistic application of processes. We expect all people to perform identically or highly similarly when we probably have a hundred variations even to simple task completion. Build the scaffold for processes and then allow people to discover their most energetic way of applying themselves to this that’s in their rhythmic sense of themselves.
Thirdly, bring the two things together into organisation design, work design, leadership behaviours and team dynamics.
Our well-being, our energy, our performance - perhaps in that order are the key considerations to a safe, strong and smart organisation humanely working to a better future. No more human as machine or even versus machine and more human AND machine in harmony and with complementary energies.
Perry Timms is a Chartered CIPD Member; facilitator & coach. He has led technology-driven business change for over 20 years as a corporate Head of Learning, Talent & OD. Energy, passion and insight around people development. He is also an international and TEDx speaker on HR and the future of work.