Necessary but not sufficient

We have to stop imagining that every difficulty we face has a technical solution.

For ourselves – if I just learned a new technique I’d have riches, fulfilment, love, power, or happiness. If I just followed the right steps my hollowness, longing, sadness or fear would go away.

In our families – there must be a book that will tell me how to avoid conflict, resolve it, have my partner meet my needs, get my children in line or save them from difficulty.

In our work – we’ll bring in a new process, organisation chart, reporting line, software solution, feedback system, leadership model, competency framework, list of values, behaviour chart, compensation scheme, training course. Then our difficulties will go away – our misunderstanding, confusion, and anxiety. We’ll know just what to do. Nothing will trouble us.

The set of difficulties resolvable by technical solutions when there are other people involved is small. We’ve been blinded to this by our insistence that work and life can be reduced to science alone, or that people are like machines, or that logic is the sole source of truth, or that what worked well in one place (what we call best practice) can be transferred to another without regard to the particular people involved.

No – when it comes to people, technical solutions alone will rarely do.

Instead we have to do the difficult, exciting, principled, confusing, uncertain work of talking together: inquiringwonderingrelatingtrusting, askingpromisinglearningcommitting, resolving, declaring, listening and understanding. 

None of which are easy, because they call on our courage and sincerity, our integrity and our willingness to make ourselves vulnerable.

Which is why we’d rather convince ourselves that technology or technique will save us. Necessary though they are, and sufficient though they are not.

Photo Credit: Timo Neumann via Compfight cc

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