June 14th 2019

How Technology is Changing the Way we Communicate, Work & Behave – Interview with Rahaf Harfoush

Technology has transformed the way that humans interact. And the pace of technological change continues to accelerate with new platforms, tools and networks. Human behaviour is changing too. Rahaf Harfoush shares her insights as a digital anthropologist, exploring the implications for humans and the organisations we work in.


[00:00:00] Question 1: What are some of the most striking ways that technology is shaping our behaviour?

Rahaf Harfoush [00:00:10] I think there are a lot of striking ways that technology is changing our behaviour. In fact, most people will find that many of their behaviours from the way that they check out a new restaurant or planet vacation or find a date to or deal with their finances. There's very little pieces of our lives now. That aren't being interface with some type of technology. So what's interesting to me, though, is to go beyond some of these surface interactions and instead of just saying, oh, people are using technology to find a partner or to use dating sites or dating apps, I like to think about, OK, well, just how are these dating apps changing the way that people are thinking about monogamy? You're thinking about what a relationship should be. You're thinking about courtship and dating.

Rahaf Harfoush [00:00:52] So I think that there are so many different ways that technology is changing, how we learn, how we play, how we vote, how we work and some of the implications of these changes. I don't even think we're fully aware of yet.

[00:01:05] Question 2: Are there strategies we can use to make sense of all this?

Rahaf Harfoush [00:01:10] We're trying to figure out how can you make sense of all of this? I think for me, mindset is the most important thing. The first thing that we have to change our mindset about is that for many of us, this isn't actually a technology issue. This is a leadership issue. This is an HR issue. This is a culture issue. The technology is just a tool. It's how we decide to use it. That is going to make or break whether we have a positive impact or a negative impact on our organizations. So the first thing is to get out of your head. This idea, oh, I'm not technical or I don't know anything about these tools. It's like it doesn't matter. You can learn. And more importantly, we can start asking certain questions about, you know, how is this tool going to help us implement our culture? What is this tool say about the way that we treat people? What values is this tool and body? Once we start shifting away from the technicalities of the tool and back onto what's really important, which is the people, then I think that's a great first step in figuring out how to handle all of this fast paced transformation.

[00:02:10] Question 3: What are the people implications of these changes? And how can the HR function best respond?

Rahaf Harfoush [00:02:18] I think as organisations continue to be transformed by technology, HR is going to play a more important role than ever because they're going to be acting as the bridges between the technology and the people, because that bridge is normally the policy. The policy is what determines how technologies are used, how people are evaluated, how people are recruited. It's really about the heart and soul of the organisation. So the first step and I think the biggest implication I'm going to say free char is to recognize that their roles are going to evolve a bit. They are going to have to become a bit more technical in their understanding, not necessarily of the nuts and bolts of the technology, but of some of the broader implications. For example, privacy implications or data portability implications or transparency implications, sort of all of the different impacts that technology can have. And the second thing is that I believe that HR needs to evolve to more of an advocacy role to really make sure that when you're in a meeting room and the decisions that are being made about the technology are being brought forth by I.T. or the tech department, that someone in the room says, wait, let's just take a moment and think about how these tools are going to impact the people.


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