Windward Insights

How to Redefine the Role of Human Interaction in the Age of Artificial Intelligence

Written by Kristen Weeder

video screencap of Bryan Kramer

Insights from an interview with Sean McDermott and Bryan Kramer on the AIOps Evolution Podcast

Sean McDermott, CEO of Windward Consulting Group sat down with New York Times Best-Selling author Bryan Kramer to discuss the future of artificial intelligence and machine learning as it relates to the Human Business Movement. In this episode, they cover how we can keep a strong human connection with employees and customers in the changing world of technology.

They discuss the importance of human qualities currently unattainable by AI. They highlight ways to keep your team connected while making strides with artificial intelligence and machine learning in your organization. Some customers and staff are simply reluctant to accept technological change and adopt new technologies. Bryan Kramer gives tips on how you can keep the momentum going by making small incremental changes of progress while leveraging technology to increase high-value human touchpoints.

Leveraging technology to increase human touchpoints is a competitive advantage

The human business movement is focused on the philosophy that there is really no business-to-business, or business-to-consumer interaction, it all comes down to human-to-human interaction.

When social media was first introduced, it flattened the playing field between businesses because any customer could have conversations with any business. Further, any person within the company can interact with those outside the business without corporate oversight. Now we are evolving touch points that used to be human-to-human into technology-to-human through the adoption of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and augmented reality.

Deployments of virtual chatbots and virtual agents is a great example. Since the advent of these new technologies, companies are trying to figure out how to stand out against the competition, which is where the Human Business Movement comes into play. According to Kramer, with all of the technology being used today, it’s actually to our benefit to be more human in order to stand out because there’s so much automation at the moment. He points out that “being human is our competitive advantage, which has never been that way up until now.”

Ways to be more human

Bryan answers the question of why should we “be more human” if a machine could do a task more efficiently? He points out that there are prominent human characteristics that separate us that AI may never be able to achieve. Humans have emotions and how people react and respond is very different from a machine. They have a uniqueness to what touches them and how they evoke emotion is wildly different from any AI. Therefore one can relate human moments to exploring and creating those emotions that can only be found through true connectedness.

Bryan gives the example of an Amazon chat where the agent role-plays being a character in the book the customer was complaining hadn’t arrived, and turned into a unique and heart-warming connection with the customer.

Artificial intelligence simply can’t pick up on those kinds of contextual clues and respond in the way a human can. Sean points out, “when you’re in person, you have a greater connection to people, and then you create memories together.” In the end, if you can create those good personal experiences and memories with your customers and staff, that’s really what it’s all about.

Creating progress through incremental change

Sean and Bryan show that an important aspect to any business is momentum which happens by starting small and expanding from there. They speak of ways to encourage workers and customers to get on board with new technologies and ideas especially when using artificial intelligence and how taking small steps can be the best way to encourage change.

They also talk about how improvements and change are necessary today, and how the notion that AI will replace humans in the workplace is not accurate. Change can help to create new jobs and new skill sets. According to Sean “everyone needs to be learning new skill sets because… look at just what happened in the last 10 or 20 years with the advent of the internet.” An entirely new category of jobs emerged with skills that didn’t even exist prior to the Internet. We expect the same to happen with artificial intelligence and machine learning and we’re already seeing a high demand for these talents in the marketplace.

Leveraging artificial intelligence to CREATE more human interaction is a win-win

Bryan stresses that it isn’t a conversation about AI or human to human, it’s a conversation about leveraging both to increase not decrease human interaction. As IT leaders deploy these technologies it is imperative to remember that the end-use and customer still crave human interaction.

IT leaders should look for opportunities to use machine learning to find new opportunities to increase high-value customer touchpoints in the sales process and throughout the customer experience. And look for opportunities to leverage automation, for areas where human contact is of little or no value. Most important, is to always include the option of interacting with a human if the automated interaction isn’t what the customer wants.

Have you ever gotten lost in an automated phone menu? One of those ones that just goes on and on giving you too many options that don’t fit and no options that do fit? This is a great metaphor when you are designing machine learning solutions. Give the customer an exit that puts them in touch with a human while doing your best to design automated experiences that feel more, not less human.

So what can one do to take that first step? Grab a group of people, take them to a whiteboard in the office and map out all of the customer touchpoints. Is there more room for high value human interaction to happen? How can you surprise and delight your customers in a different way? How can you automate identification of these touchpoints?

These are questions that will help any IT leader find new ways to wow their customers while leveraging machine learning to do what it does best; recognize patterns, predicting problems in the customer journey, and solving them before they touch the customer. Want to dive deeper? Watch the full episode below, listen to the podcast here, or view the transcript below to catch the highlights.

Show Notes:

New York Times best selling author Bryan Kramer

There Is No B2B or B2C: It’s Human to Human H2H

Shareology: How Sharing is Powering the Human Economy


Speaker 1 (00:01):

SPEAKER 1: Welcome to the AI ops evolution podcast. This series features visionary IT leaders who are paving the way for the next evolution of the IT industry. Discover the truth about where we are in the adoption of artificial intelligence for ITit operations and actionable tips that you can implement to become a more effective ITit change agent. In this episode, we are joined by Bryan Kramer. Bryan is a renowned social business strategist, global keynote speaker, executive coach, and bestselling author. He’s one of the world’s foremost leaders in the art and science of sharing and has been credited with instigating the hashtag H to H human business movement. Bryan’s first book, There is no B2B or B2C, It’s Human to Human rose to the number one top-selling spot in business books on Amazon in its first week. His latest book, Sharology: How Sharing is Powering the Human Economy, made USA Today’s top 150 book list in the first week of its release, as well as number one on Amazon in four categories, including business and planning. A founding leader of the Human Business Movement, speaks all over the world about how businesses can empower the people side of the success equation. Now let’s join your host, Sean McDermott, a mission-driven serial entrepreneur, IT engineer, and AI ops visionary for this exciting discussion.

Speaker 2 (01:28):

SEAN: Our listeners are really IT executives who are deploying technology focused around artificial intelligence and machine learning. So I have really two questions for you. One is in reading about you, what is the Human Business Movement? So I’d like you to talk a little bit about that because I think our audience is going to find that really interesting. And the other is, what does it mean to redefine humans in this machine learning age? I’m very interested in what your topics are or your thoughts are on that. So what is the Human Business Movement? Because I see that you’re a founder of the Human Business Movement. So that’s really interesting to me.

Speaker 2 (02:16):

BRYAN: So that goes back to the whole philosophy that came out about. There’s no B2B or B2C, business to business or business consumer. It’s H2H, human-to-human when it first came out. It was really at the advent of social media when it made every customer available to a conversation with every company. So it flattened the playing field. There wasn’t anybody within a company that couldn’t have a conversation outside of their business, directly with their customer, so that was forever changed. That was the massive change that happened when social media happened to companies. Now, things have changed

Speaker 3 (03:00):

BRYAN: five years later where it’s been redefined as or is being redefined on its own as the advent of artificial intelligence, machine learning, virtual reality, augmented reality. Automation in general is starting to create this new wave of what does it mean for humans as technology progresses, and how do you continue to humanize, backward, automation really in general? It’s kind of like going back in time in the marketing field where everyone was trying to figure out how do you stand out? And now you can stand out at scale. But now that there’s so much noise going, it’s actually to our benefit to be more human, to stand out, because there’s so much automation. So it’s a matter of automation like you said before. It’s artificial intelligence or it’s technology and humans working together to do this, but at the end of the day, how does a human actually stand out, and being more human is our competitive advantage.

Speaker 3 (04:17):

BRYAN: So being human is our competitive advantage, which has never been that way up until now. So it’s kind of interesting.

Speaker 2 (04:25):

SEAN: So what do you think that humans bring to the equation that differentiates us from machines or the future of machines? And we don’t really know exactly what the future is yet, but I think there are a lot of people out there who think that machines are going to replace human thinking, right? And we’re going to end up like on Wally, right? All just lazy sitting on lounge chairs, floating around. What, what do you think is the human characteristic now that’s going to be the most prominent coming out of all this?

Speaker 3 (05:02):

BRYAN: The most prominent human characteristic. That’s a great question. So I think that it’s emotion. I think emotion is the thing that separates us as humans from machines. That’s not to say that the machine can’t emanate emotion, or at least try to, but how we react or how we each respond is much different. We have a uniqueness in what touches us and we are all so different. We could both be looking at a painting and both see different things and have a different emotional reaction to it. How we each evoke emotion is wildly different in what we do every day in our personal lives and in business. You know, there are six core emotions. And yet this can be somewhat replicated.

Speaker 3 (06:08):

BRYAN: What AI can’t do is evoke memories and it can’t match a memory to emotion to how we’re feeling in the moment that creates this desire to want to reconnect with ourselves or our past selves. That’s just one example of a deep emotion that we might have. For instance, when I was on a Disney ride, this was years ago with my children, and it was a car ride. And at the very end of the car ride in the California Adventure side, it takes this big dip, and then it goes straight down, kind of like the log ride. And, of course, they take a picture at your worst moment ever in your life. And then you go down through, you’re off, you finish the ride, you go down through the store where everything costs $9,000. Because, of course, that’s what Disney does. They put you through the store first, and then they show you the picture of your faces in the worst way.

Speaker 3 (07:16):

BRYAN: And my daughter’s face… while she’s a wonderfully beautiful girl …her hair had completely taken over her face to the point where she looked like Jesus. Her hair was going underneath her and formed a perfect beard. It was massively, amazingly magical, the way that it perfectly did this thing. And so I took a picture of it and I posted it online and everyone commented on Facebook and they’re laughing and we’re like, “Oh my gosh. But I don’t bring that up just because it’s funny. But it was funny to me and it was unique to me that it was my daughter who had this really cool picture that turned her into Jesus that made it funny. And then I could share this. And that’s something that I don’t think… we’re a long ways off, long, long, long ways off from AI ever seeing that emotion, that humor in the joke … it’s too deep an emotion too. Too deep into too much of a memory now for me to even call it up to tell you about it.

Speaker 3 (08:23):

BRYAN: So that would be the one thing that I would say that humanizes us.

Speaker 1 (08:31):

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Speaker 3 (09:23):

SEAN: I feel that this conversation around emotional intelligence is really increasing. I would say, in the last year or two, right? And we’re doing some surveys around emotional intelligence in the workplace. Do you think that the rise of the conversation around emotional intelligence is proportional to the rise of machine learning and AI and the conversations? That we, as humans are saying, look we need to become more in touch with our feelings. We need to be more comfortable with our feelings. We need to understand and be empathetic to other people because somewhere subconsciously we know that AI is coming and it’s going to take over something. So this is our connection to people. I don’t think we’re that smart. And I think that it’s certainly going to serve a purpose. I think that it’s too soon to say that AI is scary enough so that we now are trying to have a more emotional intelligence site.

Speaker 3 (10:30):

BRYAN: I don’t know if I go that far, but I would say that we are cocooning ourselves enough into desiring more emotional intelligence now that we have technology more and more around us. So technology is the core challenge.

SEAN: Is it AI?

BRYAN: I don’t know about that, but technology for sure. In 1984, Faith Popcorn wrote a book called The Popcorn Report. A brilliant book talking about the future. She’s a futurist. And I got to meet her a couple of years ago. She’s privately like one of my heroes. And she talks about how in 1984 we’re going to cocoon ourselves into a place where technology will bring everything to us and we won’t have to go outside, or we won’t have to go do podcasts in person with people, but we can do them over Zoom or over other technology.

Speaker 3 (11:30):

BRYAN: We can reach out on email to people and we text message and we order our groceries to be delivered to us. And places like Whole Foods that didn’t even exist yet within one day bring us… and Amazon would bring us everything we need and we won’t have to go to the store. And here we are 20ish years later, or more than that, 30 years later, and we are every bit cocooning. So I think that’s what we’re becoming, distanced from each other because of technology as people. We need more consciousness if we want to stay in community and be with each other.

Speaker 2 (12:24):

SEAN: I definitely feel that. I’m the father of three teenage and young adult daughters. Who have grown up in this era of cell phones and social media and it’s consuming to them, you know, and it’s constant. And sometimes I wonder, are they losing the connections with each other that we had as kids, growing up. And I think they have to figure it out. But I do believe that we, as humans, are a tribal species. We need to be connected to others. And technology allows you to have longer distance connections. But at the same time, it can also make short-distance relationships become technical and not in person.

Speaker 2 (13:26):

SEAN: And I think that when you’re in person, you have just a greater connection to people, and then you create memories, like what you said, you create memories together. And again as I get older, I realize that experience and memories are really what it’s all about. It’s what we do in order to create experience. And it’s experience of working in a company, growing a company, or experience with my kids. I literally just got back two days ago from Disney, three days with my 18-year-old. That’s what it’s all about, right? It’s about standing in line, and making jokes, you know? And that’s what makes us human. I have a hard time seeing AI doing that. But I also didn’t predict a phone in my pocket that could power three human brains, but we’ll see.

Speaker 2 (14:29):

SEAN: So back to the IT leaders. How do you think… what are some of the things that IT leaders should be thinking about regarding machine learning, AI, and how not to lose a human-to-human connection?. And the other part of that is, how do you start looking at resistance strategies where people are resisting this technology, even though they know it’s coming. As human to human is spending and concentrating on human to human connection the solution to the resistance of new technologies coming that people believe will have a negative impact on it.

Speaker 3 (15:23):

BRYAN: Oh man, that’s such a great question. And it’ll be interesting to see how that plays out. I have my ideas on it, which is … based upon just our core way of being right now, there are three main interactions that are happening right now. There’s HH, which is human-human there’s HTM, which is human to machine, which is something we all do probably all the time, like when we just walk up and we put our debit card in an ATM machine and grab money without talking to somebody. That kind of stuff happens all the time: go online, purchase something, never talk to somebody. Then there’s machine to machine, which is new. Not a lot of it, but more of it will come. And as an IT person, I’m sure you see this more than I do, which is machine to machine, machines talking to other machines and performing automated tasks. And then eventually they may actually come up with … hopefully not … but they may come up with some rule sets themselves …hopefully not their own language, like Facebook did.

Speaker 3 (16:31):

BRYAN: And we’ll be all screwed at that point. But I kid, of course. So I think that based upon those three main core interactions, we have to always be thinking about, what is the customer going through? What is it that they desire the most? What are they losing by us putting these technologies in place? We’re not asking these questions, we’re just putting them in place and then they may or may not like it. For instance, there’s this great chat that took place on Amazon that I absolutely love. It was with a customer representative. This guy came on and he’d started a chat on Amazon, what the customer says on chat. It says tracking shows the delivered, but not received.

Speaker 3 (17:32):

BRYAN: I never got my product. And the Amazon representative says, “Warmest greetings. My name is Thor.” Have you heard about this?

SEAN: No, no.

BRYAN: And he says, “My name is Thor” and the guy goes, “Whoa.” Now here’s the thing. What he’s asking for, the guy looked up his record and saw exactly the product he’s talking about. He’s talking about this book, About Valhalla from Thor that he never got in the mail. And so the customer service guy took it upon himself to talk in this way. And he said, “Greetings, Thor. Can I be Odin?” And the Amazon guy says, “Odin’s father, how are you doing on this here fine day?” And the customer said, “Thor, my son’s agony rises upon my life.”

SEAN: I have not heard about this. This is awesome.

BRYAN: And then Amazon says, “This is outrageous. Who dares to find the All-Father Odin, what has occurred to cause this agony?”

Speaker 3 (18:28):

BRYAN: And then finally the customer said, “I’m afraid a book. I was ordered to defeat. Our enemies have been misplaced. How can we keep Valhalla intact without our sacred book?” And it goes on and on, and they play this thing out and he gets his book 24 hours later, and all is done. But, I just don’t see that kind of surprise and delight and spontaneousness, and being in the moment, dancing in the moment, and doing what we do as humans, as something that’s possible. And that kind of interaction is missing a lot more than to me, actually. Let’s focus on that. If you want to build more customer loyalty, build in more human touchpoints like that, use technology to give you more engagement. Technology should bring us closer to engagement, not farther away. That’s my whole point. And so if we can use AI or machine learning to spot human touchpoints, where we can have more of these kinds of engagements, we’re going to be winning. But if we use it to have less than that, that’s where we’re going wrong.

Speaker 1 (19:37):

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Speaker 3 (20:38):

SEAN: One of the things that we work on with our customers is the journey, right? And it’s

Speaker 2 (20:48):

SEAN: not hard to map the journey. What’s hard is getting people to figure out how to create engagement, touchpoints in that journey that are really unique and surprising. And it’s one of the things that I do with my customer. So every time we do a customer survey, no matter what, I call the customer. If it’s a bad survey … but we don’t get too many of those … and it’s all automated. So the whole thing happens. They get an email saying, “Hey, thanks for your score, blah, blah, blah.” We have different templates set up, but in the end, you’ve got all this automation, and it shows up on my calendar. It’s an ability for me as the CEO to engage with our customers, to just talk to them on the phone and ask them about their experience. And I did it so I could start understanding a better way of engaging with our customers so that we can start looking at this journey as they work.

Speaker 2 (21:44):

SEAN: And we surprise people. I didn’t realize that I’d gotten feedback going. I’d never gotten a call from the CEO of one of my vendors before. So that alone was an engaging touchpoint that I didn’t intend. So the whole thing is automated. And I think that you’ve really hit on something if you use technology in a way to change. And, like you said, then we’re using technology for the right things. And I think that’s a lesson that IT leaders can take to their organization because a lot of times IT leaders focus internally. And it’s a lot easier to focus on your consumer. But as an IT leader, we sometimes lose that. We sometimes lose, “Oh, well, these are internal employees.”

Speaker 2 (22:40):

BRYAN: We don’t really need to surprise them. I like them. But we should, right? That’s a great point of how to do that. And how to use this technology to really enhance the experience when someone calls up and they say, “Hey I have an issue with my password” or something like that. You can use that as an experience, a way of creating a new experience for them. And I’ve worked at enough big companies where I’ve been completely underwhelmed by the internal IT experience, you know?

SEAN: o now I’d like to kind of shift into the practical aspect of this. One of the things that we focus on a lot, and I would say one of the biggest issues with the success of IT initiatives inside of a large organization is their ability to manage change and manage resistance.

Speaker 2 (23:41):

SEAN: So, you spend a lot of money, millions of dollars on new software applications, and it’s going to streamline processes and all kinds of ROI-type discussions and things like that. But it has this downstream effect on people. And not only on the people who use the old system. They’re trying to figure out, “Hey, am I going to lose my job?” But the people who use the old processes have been doing these processes for years, and they don’t like change. And we don’t like change. How how can people use this kind of human- human? What techniques do you think IT leaders could use in order to help with the change process? Because one of the biggest fail points of it is that …we call it operationalizing a project… that the project gets deployed, but it never fully gets operationalized with people that adopt it. You know, they don’t want to use the new system. They want to use the old system because they know that system. How can we address human to human engagement to help mitigate change and mitigate resistance to change?

Speaker 3 (24:56):

BRYAN: So, resistance to change is typically because we have fear of something replacing or doing something that takes the place of something that we’re doing. First of all, we have to paint a vision, a better vision. If that’s the case, we’re not doing a good enough job showing how this can help, not hurt, and how it’s not going to replace, it’s going to enhance. Whether the skill sets are ones that we also need to build ourselves. I’m also not going to paint a rosy picture and say that you are safe in your role and you shouldn’t be learning anything. You’ll be just fine going the way you’re going. Everyone needs to be learning new skill sets because look at just what happened in the last 10 or 20 years with the advent of the internet.

Speaker 3 (25:49):

BRYAN: It brought about a whole new invention of jobs and, and eliminated some, and this is going to happen over and over again. Everything’s cyclical. And so learning new skill sets is important. Change is going to happen and it’s going to happen with or without you. So, this is something that I think will happen to people and they’re going to be forced to change whether it’s now or in the future… digital transformation that’s happening. It’s not going to happen overnight, but it’s going to happen. And the second thing is that people have a challenge with momentum. Momentum is one of the hardest things to create in any company… harder as a large company than a small company. That’s why smaller companies, I think are more nimble because they create momentum faster.

Speaker 3 (26:49):

BRYAN: And why big companies should be hiring smaller companies. Because they can actually get through things faster. I’m a big small business. But at the end of the day, momentum happens when you start with small things and create from there. So instead of taking on the world and saying, How can we create this massive customer journey that’s going to solve all of our problems, let’s start with something small. Let’s pick a small milestone that’s doable and get a team together to try something out, and let’s learn from each other. And most importantly, let’s see how we work together to get this new thing done. So instead of taking on the world of massive change, let’s first learn how to be a team on something new in the digital transformation space or any kind of transformation.

Speaker 3 (27:43):

BRYAN: And then, once we know that that works and we have felt this momentum, we know what’s possible, what is impossible, what we need to add, what skill sets we’re missing, all that good stuff. Are we using agile? Do we need it? What are all the important ingredients that go into now taking this and then duplicating it throughout the organization, or enhancing it so that we can bring more of this to our organization? I guess my point is, instead of boiling the entire pot, warm it up as you go and see if you can get everybody to just make small increments of change. And this is a new fascination of mine. The more that we go with, the busier we’re getting, the more scared we’re getting, the more work we’re having to do to think about everything that’s coming. And my whole thing is, just take a step back and let’s just make little one-degree shifts of change in organizations. Because the one-degree shift is still a hundred. It can make 180 degrees of difference. And if we can just really inflict that kind of small change, I think we’ll be much better off and we’ll be less shiny penny and more focused on what we need to do.

Speaker 2 (29:00):

SEAN: Yeah, I think there’s a lot of wisdom in that.

BRYAN: I’ve been focused on that in a lot of areas, both in the company and my personal life… this whole idea of compounding. And making small changes because big changes are scary. And I know I’m guilty of this. I like to build a big vision and plan, but the execution you’ve really got to do it in small pieces. And I think that’s where a lot of people fail. And they fail in their personal lives. They fail in initiatives because it’s a human trait. I want to lose 40 pounds, six months go by, and they haven’t lost anything. Well, how about you just focus on losing a pound a week?

Speaker 2 (29:47):

BRYAN: It’s nice to have that goalpost out there, but in the end, when you lose 10 pounds, you’re going to see a difference and it’s going to create that momentum. And I think that sometimes, especially in the IT world, we like the big change, let’s move the cloud, and a lot of work gets done in the plan and the division’s not well articulated. And then everyone’s kind of nervous. What are they going to mean to me, I’m going to lose my job. And then two years go by and you still really haven’t made a lot of progress. So they’ve created all this conflict in the organization and anxiety, but they didn’t really achieve much.

Speaker 2 (30:33):

SEAN: So I think that’s a great strategy.

BRYAN: And this one thing that we talk a lot about regarding our customer, especially when it comes to AI ops, that AI ops is a strategy, right? And one of the first things we say is, You’ve got to develop a vision, and that vision, it’s a multi-year vision because the promise of AI ops can’t even be delivered today because of the technologies. So they’re limited. I mean, it’s early on. And we’re doing some very contained things with AI, really machine learning. But the vision is years away. But being able to make small incremental changes to get there. And giving people the ability to adapt, to understand that, and helping people understand their path in that.

Speaker 2 (31:26):

BRYAN: So if you’re an operations person, kind of to your point, and you’re sitting there all day long, just kind of cooking the keyboard, you’re probably going to be automated out of a job, right? If you want to enhance your skills and become a more skilled worker, there’s probably a job waiting for you that may not even be defined today. I just had a whole conversation with an analyst yesterday, and we were talking about, What are the biggest things? And it is that people complain that with this new initiative, we’re going to lose her job. Nobody’s really lost her job. And for IT, new jobs have been created. Five years ago you were a guy in a data center, and now you might be a cloud cost analyst. A cloud costs analyst job didn’t even exist two years ago.

Speaker 2 (32:11):

BRYAN: Nobody even knew what it was now. So your ability to adapt is really important.

SEAN: So going on, how do you help? What can you tell an IT leader how to create a better connection with their staff while they’re trying to get some of these visionary things done to alleviate some of the stress?. And we’ve talked a little bit about how the vision is important. Are there things that, just daily interactions or communication that they could do to help kind of build that connection with their staff and put their mind at ease?

Speaker 3 (32:58):

BRYAN: I love that question. That’s so important if we’re going to create any kind of change in our organization. If we’re not connected to each other and understand what the other person’s going through, then we’re never going to be able to adapt and change and pivot and make these kinds of changes, or even just enjoy our daily work. At the end of the day, we just want to enjoy what we’re doing. And the part of the word that I emphasize is “joy.” Enjoy is so important… to just waking up and loving what you do every day. I think that sometimes we get on, we automate ourselves, we just get up and go to work and do our job and come home and get out proposals and get out the things that it takes to just get it done.

Speaker 3 (33:57):

BRYAN: But where’s the joy in all of that? If you’re not enjoying what you’re doing, then you’re going to burn out. And there’s no reason that anyone should have to burn out if you’re really truly loving what you do and who you do it with. And so to back to your question, I think it comes down to empathy. I think empathy is the key skill there. If an organization is missing empathy, I just don’t see it working. I think there are a lot of companies that you can point to that put empathy in place first, before anything else and said, How are we going to build empathy around a process so that we’re always touching back with people to see how they’re feeling or doing and getting that kind of feedback?

Speaker 3 (34:40):

BRYAN: And if you can step into the other person’s shoes and see how they’re doing, you’re being a great leader. The minute that you stop doing that, then you’re losing touch and there’s no connection there. So, empathy for your employees, empathy for your customer, empathy for your boss, empathy for everybody. It’s a skill that’s lacking in so many different areas. And it sounds like it should be easy, right? Just ask the other person how they’re doing, and actually listen to how they’re doing. But you know we are always moving.

Speaker 2 (35:15):

BRYAN: So I think the hardest thing to do is make the time, right? Because, in the end, that’s probably our biggest enemy, right? It’s time, and making time to sit down and have that conversation with your staff: How are you doing? And teaching them how to do it.

Speaker 3 (35:38):

BRYAN: Emulating it. The interesting thing about time is, have you ever been in flow where you’re sitting at your desk or you’re sitting somewhere and something just comes to you and you just need to be able to get it out really fast? And it just works so so easily. And you’re thinking, How the heck did I just do that? Like you’re driving on the highway. You don’t know how you’re driving the last five minutes, you just forgot you’re driving.

Speaker 2 (36:02):

BRYAN: Or are you working on something for an hour and four hours go by? And you’re thinking, What happened?

Speaker 3 (36:08):

BRYAN: And then there’s the opposite where you’re thinking, “I cannot wait for this day to be done. It could not end soon enough.” Typically that’s how time comes, too, into play. So if you can create more empathy and you enjoy your job, more time will go faster and you get more done in time. Time becomes irrelevant because we can create things faster. We can do things faster. We can’t work alone. Working alone does not make things faster. We have to work with a team. There was no business that built itself without somebody else, or at least a team of people supporting it. And so if in order for us to create something great, we’ve got to create more, then we have to create more empathy and we have to do it so that we are all enjoying what we’re doing. And when we combine those different elements, time’s irrelevant. It becomes so much easier. I’m not saying you’re not going to have your bad days, wanting to be finished faster, but it will happen less and less.

Speaker 2 (37:02):

SEAN: So what can somebody take away from this? They’re driving down the road and listening to this podcast, super interesting, what can they do today? They walk into the office this morning and say, I’m going to do this today. What can they do this week? What can they do this month? Do you think that could just make a difference… and start building these human connections, whether with their employees or their company or their customers?

Speaker 3 (37:34):

BRYAN: Great question. So I’ll make it really simple. Walk around your office, grab some people, take them over to the whiteboard, and map out all of your customer touchpoints. Every point where your customer touches your business, your service that you offer, or your product that you offer… map that out on the board, from the very first proposal or meeting or email, or however it is that they come into your business, to the very last touchpoint that you remember them having and everything in between. Now take a step back and look at the whole thing. Question it. Do we have everything here? It doesn’t need to be perfect. It just needs to be close enough. Look at it and ask the question, Where could we make more human moments happen, more human touchpoints?

Speaker 3 (38:27):

BRYAN: Where can we surprise and delight our customer where we’re not doing it now? That’s, what’s going to put you over the top over your competition because everybody’s doing the same thing right now. It’s the same process: We walk in, we build a funnel, we create a model to serve the business. We have an accounting system. It’s all the same. If you want to make something different for your customer, surprise and delight them in moments when they least expect it and the way that you do that is you just walk up to a whiteboard, map it out, look at it and say, okay, where are three spots that we can do something extra, that we can make them feel great, that we could make them feel appreciated, that we can show them empathy? Step into their shoes and say, okay, how are they feeling at this point?

Speaker 3 (39:08):

BRYAN: What can we do to help them? Those are the things that keep them as raving fans and never want to leave you because they felt something so much deeper from something that you gave them that they hadn’t seen anywhere else. And now they’re going to go human, go tell their friends about it. This is what creates referrals and referrals, as you know, are better than any kind of sale or any kind of marketing that you can do. So that’s what I would do first: walk to a whiteboard, grab some people, and start working at your human touchpoints.

Speaker 4 (39:40):

Speaker 3 (39:41):

SEAN: What could they do for their staff?

Speaker 4 (39:45):

Speaker 3 (39:45):

BRYAN: For the staff … I’m also a trained executive coach, and I spend half of my time coaching executives. And so this is my love language. So what I like to create is co-ownership, and how do you co-own everything? I don’t think that leaders should stand alone, they should be able to ask for help when they need it. When they get into a spot where they don’t know what to do, we can lean on each other. So I do think that in order to build a company, we need to build a company of leaders. And in order to do that, we need to bring everybody along as a leader.

Speaker 3 (40:34):

BRYAN: An in order to do that, we need to set the time aside to make sure that we are building them as leaders. We want to create a situation where we can get together, and we can define our interactions, and create our coach leadership. This company, CoActive, that actually I trained with, has this great model where everyone is a leader at some point in the room, either in the front of the room, in the back of the room, or within yourself. So, Sean if I was sitting in the room with you right now, and I put my arm around your shoulder and you put yours around my shoulder, and we stuck our arms out, and we just pivoted, we should be able to point in the same direction together, your left arm, out my right arm out. And we see the same vision and we’re looking at the same place. That kind of interaction is what we want with all of our employees. We want to be able to look out and see the same vision and know where we’re all going together. I’m not alone, the leader in you, the follower, it’s us, the leadership, the leaders. So how we co-own that leadership is what I would focus on the most and bring everybody along.

Speaker 2 (41:56):

BRYAN: And doing it in a way with empathy. And making sure that you, you hear people. You’re spending time with them and trying to understand what they are concerned about, what they think their challenges are. And help them. Because in the end, that’s what we’re really here for, right? We’re here to help people be successful. And if they’re successful with themselves. One of the things that I try to do too…, it’s harder nowadays, in this HR world…how much can you ask about someone’s situation? But to me, it’s so important to understand what’s going on outside of work. You have to be careful nowadays about how you do stuff like that because it has an impact.

Speaker 2 (42:55):

SEAN: People talk about work-life balance and things like that. To me, work-life balance is really being empathetic to what people are dealing with in their outside world, because we all have issues. We all have challenges. I started a foundation around Alzheimer’s caregivers because of the journey I’ve gone through with my father and my grandmother. I saw what the caregivers were doing, like my mother and others. But what we realized is that the caregiving aspect is so huge in people’s lives. And we talk about companies talking about mental health and physical health and things like that. But a lot of times these people are taking care of other people.. Being flexible in that and understanding and saying, What, what do I need to do? How can I help you be successful on that side?

Speaker 2 (43:51):

BRYAN: So you’re more successful on this side. That, to me, is work-life balance. It’s not necessarily counting hours that you work per week. It’s being understanding and flexible about how we can work together to fulfill all aspects of your life. Because you’re not just saying, well, as long as you get here at nine and leave at five we’re good. I think that that’s a recipe for frustration eventually. But that’s hard to do now. It’s getting harder… you can’t ask certain questions now. But we as leaders need to figure it out though, we really do.

Speaker 3 (44:35):

BRYAN: The number one tool we all have, that we can do legally and without challenges… there’s nothing that will ever stop us from just planting ourselves and listening. I think you said this before… time is not always on our side, but when we embrace time as a tool, if I am listening, maybe this is actually more important than the next hour of us having a rush toward the next project or do something because it’s going to make it… it’s going to help us all be better as a team versus, being frantic and not understanding the other person and where they’re coming from. I think there’s an obvious choice there that could work itself out.

Speaker 3 (45:32):

BRYAN: The other thing is, for anyone listening, there are three core tenets of … and I talked about this in my book… of being your most human self or your business being its most human self. And that’s both internally and externally. The three tenets, we talked about, one of them is empathy. The second one is simplicity and the third one is imperfection. And this isn’t about being those things, it’s about embracing those things. And when you think about a business that you love, it usually has one to one or two of those things. Rarely do any businesses have all three. Apple is a simplistic business. It embraces simplicity. We know all their products, we know what they do.

Speaker 3 (46:18):

BRYAN: It’s very simplistic. Amazon is empathetic towards its customers. Now you could argue that it’s not in certain cases, but it takes back all its products in a return exchange. No problem, no questions asked, that’s being empathetic towards the customer in one way. And then imperfect is like when a business screws up and they just immediately come out and say, we screwed up. You know, “We’re embracing it, we’re embracing the imperfection.” We can do these three things as people too if we’re embracing imperfection, we’re embracing this, we embrace that. Our employees are imperfect. If we think that they’re going to be perfect all the time and we’re not listening, we’re not having empathy, it’s never going to work out. So that’s why we want to embody what we want our business to have, which is simplicity, empathy, and imperfection. We want to bother you that ourselves, we want our business to do that same thing. So the brand stands on its own and has those things.

Speaker 2 (47:13):

SEAN: Wow. Yeah, I love that. I actually love that a lot. That’s a great way to actually end this podcast. I think that really kind of walking away and saying how can we look at ourselves and understand that nothing is perfect. And, and I talk about that a lot. It’s interesting. I say this to a lot of my customers. I say that our relationship is not defined by our success. Our relationship is defined by how we deal with issues. Because there will be issues and how we as two people deal with those issues and communicate and listen will define our relationship. I’ve embraced that over the past few years… gone through some things… and I’ve embraced that in relationships too, saying, Look, relationships are not perfect and how you communicate and how you work through issues, defines the relationship.

Speaker 2 (48:17):

PHIL: And I, again, as a father of three daughters, my youngest is 18, my oldest is about to be 22. You really have to embrace that and you can’t go into it being judgmental. You have to check a lot of things that you just want to say. But in the end, you just have to listen and… try to go in with the aspect of listening and calmness and things like that… and embracing the fact that you have different opinions on things, and we just have to work through it, and a lot of it comes through. And a lot of times it comes through, but the answer to the fourth, fifth, and sixth question that you’re asking because that’s where truth lies.

Speaker 2 (49:04):

PHIL: It doesn’t lie in the first question, the first answer, right? And I’ve learned that after 30 years of business and 22 years of kids, the answer is not the first answer. You’ve got to dig a little deeper, and that takes asking pointed questions… that takes listening to the question and trying to go deeper on the next one and failing and getting to really what the truth is. And when you figure out the truth, actually a lot of times things are easier to fix if you just understood the truth.

SEAN: So, I’m reading your book now, Human Human. So I’m pretty excited about that. I’m also reading a bunch of blog posts. I just read a couple about self-deprecation, which I thought was really interesting work.

Speaker 3 (49:53):

PHIL: Thank you. And Sean, thank you so much for having me on here. I really enjoyed this conversation and I can’t wait to see more about…what you guys are doing and where you guys are going. Especially with the emotional intelligence work that you’re doing. I think there’s so much there that we can learn from, and I’m looking forward to seeing what turns up there. Just go to, Bryan with a Y, and Kramer with a K. On all social media, forward slash or at Bryan Kramer. So I’m the HH guy, so you’ll probably get a reply back and in real life, it’ll really be me. It won’t be some AI chatbot. And then who knows, he may send me something, I’ll send something and you’ll send something. And before you know, it, we’ll actually be having this thing called the conversation and it’ll be really cool. So thank you so much. I appreciate it.

Speaker 1 (50:54):

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