The word “innovation” is undeniably connected to technology. Talking about innovation in the 1300s might have sparked a conversation about the printing press. If you asked me to talk about innovations in the early 2000s I would have probably said Facebook and Blackberry phones. However, innovating isn’t necessary always tied to technology. It literally means: “a new method, idea, product, etc”. This means we can also innovate the most important beings on earth…ourselves! With technology taking over difficult calculations, future predictions, and heavy lifting we can focus on improving ourselves.
The introduction of something new
Another definition of innovating is “the introduction of something new”. This can mean anything from an idea to a process or a new set of habits. If we look at the technology side of innovating, this often means doing old things in new ways or combining manual processes into automatic processes. We once used to light all streetlights manually, for example. All streetlights existed out of a candle that used to be lit by hand. The combination of innovations such as electricity, the lightbulb, and a switchboard made it possible to turn the lights on and off from a distance, even automatically when using a simple computer. Light itself did not change, just the process surrounding the creation of it.
If we want to set ourselves apart, our EQ is the way to go
We — humans — work no differently. We train ourselves in many ways, innovating the things we do on a regular basis. If you practice basketball, you create a process of shooting the ball towards the hoop. That shot can be practiced over and over hundreds of times. If you do that consciously, you will train yourself to become more accurate. You’re innovating your shot. We know this, but we hardly apply this consciously. Learning is something we do, oftentimes within frames that are handed to us. We learn in school, we study at university and we take training on the job. But the rise of technology opens up opportunities for us — as humans — to innovate everything about us.
Emotional Intelligence sets us apart
We already deem ourselves the smartest mammals on the planet. We are at the top of the food chain. We’re so clever, we have created machines to lift things too heavy for us. We’ve created robots to run tasks that are too repetitive and boring for our developed brains. Now, we have come to a point where we’re creating technology to do the thinking for us, called Artificial Intelligence. A.I. has many features common to our own brain, oftentimes far more powerful. Computers can calculate much faster than we can. They can also be programmed to translate 100+ languages or can predict the future of certain applications and their wear and tear. Things we can sometimes do, but not at the same level.
However, the major (let me emphasize that, the MAJOR) difference between Artificial Intelligence and Human Intelligence is the emotional part. We have a moral compass, knowing right from wrong. Machines just do as they are told are trained. We also have empathy, a trait so unique it’s a human-specific trait. We can relate to other people, sense their emotions, and level with them. It’s the fundament of every relationship we build, whether that’s personal or professional. A chatbot really doesn’t care about your question, but the person behind it — a customer service employee — might actually care and try to help you from their sense of empathy. Building relationships, managing and supporting people, thinking creatively and critically are human traits that cannot be faked or automated.
Now is the time
If we want to set ourselves apart, our EQ is the way to go. If we use all these new technologies to take over parts of our lives not connected to EQ, like processes and hard labor, we can dedicate that time and brain capacity to be more human. If machines take over parts of our jobs, it’s the perfect time to develop the skills that make us, us. We can build stronger relationships by spending more time with people. In business, you could automate processes in your job to “create time” you can spend talking to clients. Surgeons can have the aid of super-precise robots to perform parts of their operations, allowing them more time pre- or post-operation with their patients. A marketing manager can use the extra time to read up on comments from clients and make improvements on service and products. There are a million ways we can use technology to become more human(e).
I said now is the time, because we need to start learning to be more human as soon as we can. This will also help determine which technological innovations need to most attention to support us. Surely, we can create anything we want with technology, but not every innovation is necessarily a good thing. We need to figure out where technology can support our EQ so that we can keep on developing (yes, innovating) our EQ to become more of what we really are….humans.