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Innovate With Humanity

Leaders, when you think of innovation do you immediately think of technology?  You’re not alone.

Yet there are leaders creating major transformations by considering all possibilities and pathways. They look at every option from traditional, to cutting edge, to bleeding edge, for business innovation and growth. Some create a profitable business on a foundation of human kindness. Others have the guts to buck the trend of replacing human talent with technology. Instead, they seek more specialized human talent.

These leaders innovate with humanity, not just technology, and here are two such stories.

Example #1: Debt Collection Without Browbeating

CBS News reported a story of a debt collection company, CFS-2, owned by Bill Bartmann that is using a primarily human approach to succeed. Bill believes you can’t browbeat people into paying money they don’t have. You can, however, collect money once you show them you care and help them restructure to find the money.

Sounds pretty old fashioned — kindness and care as a pathway to financial success. How many CEOs innovate with this belief? What do you think? Can kindness and care be a vehicle to financial success?

Kindness and care as a pathway to financial success. How many CEOs innovate with this belief?

It helps to know that Bill Bartmann’s vision goes far beyond just the financial success of his company. He is also on a mission to reform the debt collection industry. His innovative approach comes from a passion to transform the industry from insensitive and somewhat profitable to human and very profitable. Innovation comes from a deeper purpose and broader vision.

Example #2: Super Human Recognizers to Solve Crimes

According to CBS News, Scotland Yard is using 200 humans with special super human talent for recognizing faces to solve tough crimes. Moreover, they are actively searching for more of these super recognizers, as they are called. Scotland Yard even devised a rigorous test to ensure they are selecting people that truly have this super human talent.

What makes this example so telling is that they are trying to find more people that are super recognizers not just trying to clone this ability into technology. It is a mindset of innovating and succeeding with humanity not just technology.

Innovative technology has its place and value. Tremendous benefits have come from technological innovation — in medical advances alone! The key question for leaders is, are you allowing a focus on technology to block more transformative innovation?

Innovation comes from a deeper purpose and broader vision.

Leaders, do your teams innovate only with technology because it’s the accepted norm? What success are you forfeiting because the human approach is considered old-fashioned?

Innovation lessons from courageous transformational leaders:

  • Identify your deeper purpose and broader vision. Communicate it clearly.
  • Uncover what hidden unspoken norms your teams use when you ask them to innovate. Are they thinking that the solution must be technological? How are these hidden norms blocking innovation and success?
  • Override those norms. Establish a new norm that excludes nothing in the early stages of assessing a challenge.
  • Look in all directions for possible innovation — backward in history, around in the present, inside the heart, across diversity, and onto the emerging horizon and budding future.
  • Remove the psychological risk of non-acceptance. Establish a culture where all ideas are welcome for discussion. Are your teams loath to suggest human approaches because the answer has always been “no” or “it’s not scalable”? Will your Baby Boomers offer ideas that reflect their history or withhold suggestions believing that you only want  what’s trendy?
  • Challenge your teams of all generations to look outside their current mindset and comfort zone. The fact that something is new doesn’t mean it’s best for all challenges.  Likewise, the fact that a tradition exists doesn’t mean it’s a panacea.

Look in all directions for innovative approaches:

backward in history

around in the present

inside the heart

across diversity

and onto the emerging horizon and budding future.

Look in all directions for innovative approaches: backward in history, around in the present, inside the heart, across diversity, and onto the emerging horizon and budding future.

Innovate to break through organizational silos to give innovation a real chance to succeed.  Innovate how you engage employees to inspire them to greater innovation. Innovate how you greet and treat customers to build immeasurable trust and loyalty.

Innovate with humanity and you tap an ever present universal truth — people contribute when you reach out to them with care.

Including the human touch doesn’t mean the business will fail. Innovate with humanity and you tap an ever present universal truth — people contribute when you reach out to them with care.

Meet customers’ needs through kindness and honor them as people. Recognize employees’ talents, invite their participation, appreciate their results. Then see innovation and success materialize before your eyes.


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Image Credit: Flickr, Creative Commons

©2014 Kate Nasser, CAS, Inc.  This post was written specifically for the SwitchandShift blog.  If you wish to repost or republish this, please email Thank you for respecting intellectual capital.


Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach™, inspires leaders and teams in large & mid-size corporations to the heights of service and performance. Her special focus for 20+ years in keynotes, workshops, and consulting has been turning interaction obstacles into supreme success. Kate's latest DVD -- Customer Service USA: Regional Differences That Make a Difference -- shows you how to have your customer's back! Kate invites you to join the people skills chat on Twitter (#peopleskills) every Sunday 10am ET/3pm GMT and click on the icons above to connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, Google +, and LinkedIn. Kate has a B.S. in Mathematics and a Masters in Org. Psychology.

  • lifeisntbroken

    Great post Kate! It’s fun to visualize a future where people will replace machines in best business practices. Articles like this one are a positive step in the awareness that needs to take place to allow that to happen. Thanks

  • Tom George

    Nice article Kate! People should always be at the heart of driving innovation, not machines! Happy to share your perspective here.

  • Matt Schmidt

    Great story about Bartman. He used his own experience to present a different approach in the market. Human experience can be transformative.

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  • KateNasser

    Thank you Tom! When businesses overlook the heart, we end up with the financial crises we saw w/ Enron, and the larger Wall Street Lehman Brothers et al crash. We we share our voices about staying balanced while innovating, we can all win.

  • KateNasser

    So grateful for your share here. I was intrigued when I first heard the Scotland Yard story and found myself looking for other — a blog post was born. And yes, it was fun looking for them!

  • KateNasser

    Agree Matt. Human experience has tremendous transformative value — witness the continued power of stories in teaching, speaking, and networking. Many thanks for your comment on this post!


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