Pulleys, wheels and levers are all considered simple machines. For centuries, people have used these to ensure whatever effort they applied translated into the biggest impact. The Egyptians used simple machines to help build the pyramids – a feat they could not have accomplished otherwise. The concept of simple machines in classical times was so strong Archimedes is attributed as saying, “Give me a lever and a place to stand and I will move the earth.”
The measure of a machine is how it translates input into output. It is simple ROI: “When I give this, what do I get back?” A transactional exercise in which we try to minimize what we give while maximizing what we get back. This is very logical when dealing with an inanimate object like a machine. The issue is when this mentality spreads to our interactions with people.
Which it has.
We talk of human resources, human capital, human performance technology. We “interface” with each other. We measure level of effort. We analyze resistance to change. And somewhere along the way – as our machines have evolved into something more than “simple” – we realized what’s holding us back isn’t the machines anymore. It’s us. So we turned our attention toward the human machine to see how we can give less to it while getting more in return.
But people are not simply human machines. We have inspirations and aspirations. We have loved ones struggling with debilitating or sometimes terminal conditions. We have the baggage of difficult childhoods or the weight of an impending future. We feel the pang of disappointment. We yearn for connection and meaning and belonging and purpose and hope and security and adventure.
We yearn for it.
Think of this as you deal with a demanding boss, a belligerent coworker, an insufferable employee. It’s not you versus the machine. It’s us, together, trying to remain human – one moment of compassion at a time. That is how we make an impact.