Beyond the Technology Boom: The Age of Re-personalization

Written by Adam Drewes 07/07/17

Technology’s transformative impact on the last two generations is undeniable. However, few would dispute the existence of what I call “pockets of de-personalization” that have crept in over time, to both the family unit and most business organizations.

First, I have some observations about how, in today’s culture, we tend to treat one another. Generally, the more personal, intimate and frequent the interactions we have, the more we typically value the interactions. It’s a truth that we see in friendships, at work, and certainly with the deepest of personal relationships between spouses, parent-child relationships, and close friendships. Time spent in person, communicating and interacting breeds a deeper understanding of perspective and circumstances, and over time develops a natural, healthy empathy for how actions and words communicated impact the other person.

Think about how angry you get when someone in traffic cuts you off. Often times (not me, but from what I’ve heard) the violation leads to verbal or physical demonstration of anger. Yet, when someone—intentionally or inadvertently—cuts in front of us in line at the register, do we have the same outer rush of anger?

Both circumstances offer very different levels of consequence to how we communicate our needs or pains. Driving, by nature, isolates us from others, offers anonymity, and limits communication to gestures, horns, and swerves.

In 2017, we find ourselves immersed in an age where we’re over-messaged but under-communicated to; we move information regularly to people through de-personalized processes. We have more barriers to human interaction than ever.

Short and abbreviation-laden channels like texting, Facebook & LinkedIn scrolling, posting & commenting are the new norm. We’ve arrived at an ironic place: Innovative technology designed to make human interactions better experiences has become a de-humanizing barrier to relationships. Our heads are down looking at phones throughout the day. In business, the result has been a redefining of personal interactions.

Rather than talking to Jill in Accounting, you open a ticket. The ticket gets re-routed until ultimately it’s closed. The short-term problem is solved…but what’s the long-term effect? From erosion of culture to retention challenges, the impact began subtly and now is pervasive. What’s next? Well, I believe there’s hope and help on the way.

Just as innovations in technology are born out of the pain and opportunity voiced by people and processes, there’s an interesting trend emerging because of pain voiced collectively in the workspace but also, I believe, in our culture as a whole:

A shift from de-personalization to re-personalization, especially in the consumer space.

Improved cameras are capturing 2D images of greater quality, resulting in more lifelike shots of key moments. 3D Image capture allows us to see images and video closer to how we would in real life. Virtual reality, enabled by 3D imaging, is poised to immerse us in a visual and auditory replica of a location.

More and more as we improve the ability of machines to perform, systematized work will become more and more automated. The creativity, intuition and intelligence of humans will be in higher demand alongside automatons of speed, data, and strength. In short: Human-to-Human collaboration, and Human-to-Computer collaboration.

What if that ticketing system had the best of all scenarios? Instead of providing a great way to track and measure requests, what if it facilitated communication as if people were in the same room despite distance that separated them?

Efficiency and profitability of processes can, in fact, go hand-in-hand with building culture, and capture the power of human interaction. In the consumer space, we are on the cusp of an unprecedented innovation era.

For example, this incredible technology collectively called Augmented Reality (AR) offers opportunities to re-personalize interactions with each other. It, and adjacent technologies like chatbots and natural language processing, may even create personalization working with the systems themselves. Those technologies are laying groundwork to interact with systems much like we do with our peers.

Don’t get me wrong; there are definitely places where the ubiquitous AR would also further disrupt our interactions. Just think if we were in a room together talking and I received an incoming call, took the call, and could have the call with the inbound caller without you actually knowing, aside from the pauses in response we already see with people reading text messages. (A recent YouTube Sci-fi video series exhibited this: people received an implant that functioned as their AR; when they called each other they could interact without actually having to speak. When looking at someone, characters would experience the pause I mentioned above—just like the feeling you get texting where someone is focused on something else simultaneously).

The good news? Some of the most innovative people and companies in the world are recognizing the dilemma and focusing on developing technologies that impact efficiency and workflow while re-personalize the experience to satisfy the basic need we all have—to interact, collaborate and experience human interaction.