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Advancing AGILE anD BEYOND



After doing an online research, I was able to condense the following list of the most important technologies/inventions in 21st century so far:


  • 3D printing

  • E-cigarettes

  • AI

  • Augmented reality

  • Blockchain

  • E-readers

  • Gene editing

  • High density battery packs

  • Mobile operating systems


A list can go on and some of you might not agree with it and that is ok. However, let me ask you this: What do you see when you are looking at the list? I see that it is lacking items of social nature. There are no technologies/inventions around how people think, behave and interact there. I doubt there's nothing new in these fields in the 21st.


What is "technology" after all? Let's look at the meaning of the word first. For the sake of simplicity, I am using a definition from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technology:

Technology is the sum of any techniques, skills, methods, and processes used in the production of goods or services or in the accomplishment of objectives, such as scientific investigation.

So, anything that resembles a set techniques, skills, methods can be considered as some kind of a technology. How to find something like that from social fields that has been invented in this century and can be added to the above list?


What if we start looking at the most complex system ever existed - human brain? There is a number of so called brain-based approaches to doing things. One example is brain-based teaching, learning. It disrupts traditional concepts how people learn and need to be taught. Those all are based on a relatively recent research in the neuroscience field that has led to a better understanding about how human brain works in social contexts of different kinds (education, casual interaction, work, business etc.). In this regard, I would like to share Theodore Zeldin's quote:

When will we make the same breakthroughs in the way we treat each other as we have made in technology?

In a way, the writer puts human interaction next to the many technologies in the above list with this simple yet so powerful question. He probably observes that while we tend to develop ourselves via invention and use of different advanced technical technologies, we obviously pay a far smaller attention to development and enhancement of our own interaction with others. And it can be called a technology too - a set of techniques, skills and methods how to make our interaction with others better.


So, is there one? It turns out that yes. It comes from the above mentioned neuroscience field, was published by David Rock in 2008 and more concretely is called SCARF. The acronym stands for Status Certainty Autonomy Relatedness Fairness which are five domains of human social experience:

The SCARF model provides a way of bringing conscious awareness to your interactions. It helps alert you to people's core concerns (which they may not even understand themselves) and shows you how to adjust your words and actions for a more positive impact.

The model's use and impact is best understood via some excerpts and examples from it in different contexts of human co-existence and interaction:


... a perceived threat to one’s status activates similar brain networks to a threat to one’s life.
In most people, the question ‘can I offer you some feedback' generates a similar response to hearing fast footsteps behind you at night.
... a reduction in status resulting from being left out of an activity lit up the same regions of the brain as physical pain.

The act of creating a sense of certainty is rewarding. Examples are everywhere in daily life: music that has simple repeating patterns is rewarding because of the ability to predict the flow of information. Meeting expectations generates an increase in dopamine levels in the brain, a reward response...

The above lines give us a feeling of the model's essence. It tries to show how our well known way of acting, behaving and communicating with each other causes either rewarding or threatening responses in our brain. The most surprising is the model's easy to grasp explanation of the five domains with examples that can help us reconsider how we do it.


Now, let's zoom out from the SCARF model and get to Agile. As you probably already know, one of 4 Agile core values is:

individuals & interactions over processes and tools

It emphasizes that people and their interactions are more important than processes, tools and other means in order to be Agile (adaptive and responsive to changes).


What does above mean in light of the SCARF model? Or let's put it other way: How does the SCARF model connects with the context of Agile? Can we say, that it enhances and deepens the practicality of the above Agile core value? I guess we surely can.

More importantly, this is not specific just to Agile. Everywhere where people need to interact to be adaptive and responsive together, this makes total sense. In some way, the SCARF model peels off another layer of unconsciousness about what happens to us when we communicate with, lead and manage other people. All we have to do is use it. The same way we use other technologies from the above list and beyond. If you ask me, the SCARF model deserves to be added to the list:

  • 3D printing

  • E-cigarettes

  • AI

  • SCARF

  • Augmented reality

  • Blockchain

  • E-readers

  • Gene editing

  • High density battery packs

  • Mobile operating systems


Is the list more social, more humane now?


If you were a CEO, owner or anyone else who is eager to apply new or even the latest technologies to what your organization does and how it does it, would you try the SCARF model? I would because I would love my company to use the latest achievements in all aspects of its operation, including how people interact. People interaction is at the heart of any organization. Without people nothing happens, no matter how we might want to look at it. Increasing focus on this is the only way how we can build sustainable organizations. And we need to, don't we in the 21st?


In case you would like to assess yourself or your team regarding how sensitive you are to each of the five domains of SCARF, use this simple self-assessment tool from NeuroLeadership Institute.

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