The Greatest Differentiator of All: Our Humanity

How technology can help us become our best selves

By Ken Tuchman

Humanity and technology are inseparable forces that have shaped the course of history. Human beings are fundamentally inventive creatures who constantly strive to make things easier and better, and technology has enabled us every step of the way. While technology has always been part of our lives, is it now at an inflection point — a point where innovation is happening faster than ever, and its impact on our existence is greater than we’ve ever seen? We emphatically say the answer is yes, and the chief purpose of this book has been to make this case.

Now the question is: What should a business leader do?

Technology has forever changed the relationship between companies and people. We’ve moved from an opaque world to a transparent one where everything is visible. Culture, products, decisions and behaviors are all out in front of us to see. Companies can’t hide behind words and pictures, and they can’t push their mistakes under the rug. To succeed, they must embrace transparency, orient everything they do around customer value and build relationships based on trust and authenticity. If not, they will suffer the same painful dance towards irrelevance that their music, book and newspaper predecessors did.

Transparency coupled with choice creates tension for companies. Companies won’t survive if they don’t completely rethink how they do business. And they need to do it quickly because just a mouse click away, someone else is already doing it. Many companies still don’t understand this new basic reality and they’re making choices that create even more tension. They’re focusing on things customers don’t care about and, in the process, accelerating their own demise.

Our frictionless future

In the near future, technology will become more and more fused into everything we do. Data will flow freely and naturally between and among other people, businesses, systems and our surrounding environments. Technology will become less visible, require less effort and feel more human than ever.

In this near future, companies will live by values that aren’t just words on a wall but values that enable them to do what is right. They’ll understand that a company that thrives nurtures an ecosystem of engaged employees, valued providers and trusted community partners. They’ll run their business so that everything that touches the customer directly or indirectly is part of a virtuous cycle of supply and demand that is supported, healthy and strong.

In many ways I see technology and people working together to free us to be our higher selves, to do more, to be more and to realize truly magical dreams.

Some companies are doing this already, but the need to lean into humanity has never been greater. The competitive advantage of the next century will be our humanity, our emotions, our imaginations and our point of view. The best companies will bake this into everything they do. And the benefits of passionately loyal customers will follow.

Tapping into customer love

This transformational shift in human connection has profound implications for business leaders and their customers. The best companies of tomorrow will use technology to create emotional connections with people. They’ll stand for something, act honestly and do things with a clear purpose. They’ll make great products and services. They’ll be thoughtful in every way. They won’t obfuscate or lie. They will be authentic and reflective. When they make mistakes, they will acknowledge them openly and truthfully and learn from them — publicly, in front of their customers.

Companies that used to use phrases such as, ‘That’s not our policy’ now have an opportunity to say, ‘We can do that. I understand your circumstance and what you’re suggesting makes sense.’ They can learn from customers and can integrate their voices into how their business operates. They’ll give their employees latitude to respond and they’ll deliver on their promises consistently to build trust. Companies that once looked at growth as True North will need to add the goal of customer love. When they do this, it will redefine how every business decision is made. Should they spend more on television commercials and store leases or invest in taking the friction out of customer interactions by making them easy, convenient, intuitive and even fun? Should they keep wasting acquisition dollars trying to fill the leaky bucket or invest in retaining loyal customers who are engaged and promoters of the brand?

Companies in just about every industry today have the opportunity to reinvent themselves. The reinvention can be powered by technology but it must be led by a true philosophical shift in thinking. Living by company values is no longer a choice but an imperative. When this happens, a whole new generation of companies will emerge and the relationship between business and consumers will never be the same.

This is an amazing time. We created this book because every day we see so much that is broken, so much that can be fixed and so much of what the future holds. And it’s truly breathtaking. It is happening everywhere, in every domain — business, entertainment, government, design, education—and we are so grateful to all of the incredible authors who contributed their ideas and insights to our discussion. We sincerely hope that these stories sparked something new for you and encourage you to continue the discussion within your organization.

It is early days in a new phase of human evolution where the interplay of technology and humanity is creating new kinds of companies and experiences. Not too long ago we took pictures with film, communicated over a landline and kept current by reading the newspaper with our morning cup of coffee. Today, we can accomplish all of these things and much more with a tap of a finger on our mobile device. The “Technology of Us” is just beginning and I, for one, can’t wait to be a part of what comes next.

Do you have ideas about where technology is leading us, or vice versa? I would love to hear them. Email me at ken@thetechnologyofus.com. After all, the conversation has just begun.

Ken Tuchman, TeleTech's chairman of the board of directors and chief executive officer, founded TeleTech to transform the way companies deliver the customer experience. With his innate understanding of the power of data and technology to connect customers directly with brands, Tuchman saw the customer experience revolution on the horizon and built a company to lead it.