Future Friday: How you think about technology makes a very big difference

by Michael Haberman on October 3, 2014 · 0 comments


How you think about something will determine how well you accept it.

How you think about something will determine how well you accept it.

As I have been preaching about HR in Future Friday I have indicated numerous times that technology will have a major impact on how HR does its job and the impact it will have on companies. When I mention this in my classes not everyone is thrilled to hear this information. I for one see opportunity; others see a gloomy dystopian future. It turns out there is a scientific name for that difference.

The work of Daniel Kahneman

I am reading the most recent book by Daniel Kahneman called Thinking, Fast and Slow. It is a very interesting book, which I am reading more slowly than I am fast. It stops and makes me think, not only about my own thought processes but also those around me. Perhaps that is the psychologist in me. It has a lot of insight into human behavior.

The inspiration for this blog comes from Chapter 13 and the discussion of availability and affect. It turns out that research has shown that humans judge the good and bad about things based on the availability of information about things and emotional response we have to that information. As an example, they asked subjects in a survey what was someone more likely to die from, stroke or accident. Accidents are in the news all the time, just watch the evening news or listen to the radio and you are likely to hear of the number of traffic accidents. Some celebrity killed in an accident makes all the headlines. There are few reports of people dying of strokes. Subsequently when asked what caused more deaths, accidents or strokes 80% people responded accidents. In reality strokes causes twice as many deaths annually.  Kahneman says “The world in our heads is not a precise replica of reality; our expectations about the frequency of events are distorted by the prevalence and emotional intensity of the messages to which we are exposed.”

We consult our emotions when making decisions

Research on this subject has shown most of us make decisions on things by consulting our emotions on things. Do we like them? Do we dislike them? How strong is that emotion? (This is called the affect heuristic.) They tested this by asking survey questions about technology. They discovered “When people were favorably disposed toward a technology; they rated it as offering large benefits and imposing little risk; when they disliked the technology; they could think only of its disadvantages, and few advantages came to mind.” And that brings me to the subject of this post.

You have some control

If you are going to be responsible in the future for technology affecting jobs in your workplace, as you should be, then how you talk about it and think about it will have a major impact on the viewpoints of employees and how well they accept things. If you feel that people will do nothing but lose jobs to robots you will not be an advocate of technological change. If you see robots as an opportunity to learn new things and perform different work then you will be an advocate.

How you view technology will affect how others view it. In order for your workforce to get prepared and to accept technology you will have to provide examples of positive changes and stay away from negative stories. Try to show how people have advanced as a result and stay away from painting dystopian pictures of the kind of future presented in The Terminator.

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