What makes the world go around? Some would say it’s the cycle of commerce and highly functioning networks, the support beams of trade and our radically evolving methods of survival. The more emotionally inspired individuals might equate it to peace, love, and good times; personal development and achieving self-actualization.
Whether you’re a traditionalist, a futuristic guru, or somewhere in between, I propose that what makes the world really tick is human connection.
From world wars to landing on the moon, raising a family, to successfully launching a business venture: our world is made and destroyed by the quality of human connection with which we operate. The overarching success we have as a society is dependent on the level we are willing to allow human connection to influence our daily choices.
Broken connections lead to disasters beyond repair; queue international rivalries and failed marriages. But the good ones are often more discreet; taking in a lonely child for adoption and paying for the elderly man’s groceries at the checkout. Big or small, our lives are defined by moments of connection, where we remember our humanity and let it break our own rules so that the person sitting next to us on the metro or the one cleaning the public restroom feels human, too. Human connection is so holistic to our existence, there is not one area of your life, work included, that cannot be improved by it.
I offer my personal work lifestyle as Exhibit A. They call me a Marketing Strategist, but undercover I’m actually a Digital Anthropologist. My job description says that I “research and strategize marketing tactics”, but from where I stand, I create and engage with remarkable human experiences. At the end of the day, I still accomplish the same things, but by adapting my wordage based on the topic at hand, I purposefully exposed my “why.”
An ordinary marketing strategist might create marketing strategies for the sake of successfully meeting benchmarks, jacking up the number of leads per campaign, and being the most memorable, “go-to” brand on the block. Those are admirable objectives, but they are incomplete. You cannot run a successful marketing strategy without impacting people, and you cannot create loyalty to your brand without making that impact go as deeply as possible.
I have to remember that I am first a human, then a strategist/researcher/marketer, etc. If I get those confused, my work will become stale and lifeless. When I work from my humanity toward humanity, that’s where we strike gold. Because then it’s not about closing a sale or successfully generating a lead, it’s about connecting worlds.
How do I intentionally integrate human connection into my work? I’m so glad you asked.
I study the humans closest to me.
I don’t have to go very far to track down excellent case studies of human connectivity. Who else do I start with than the human beings I live and work with every day? My family and co-workers, friends and peers are my go-to for gaining new perspectives and opinions for any topic on the table. The more eyes I can get on a situation, the more well-rounded my view becomes.
I intentionally craft healthy relationships with the people already in my world by asking questions, inviting outside input, and paying attention in moments I would otherwise ignore. My people, my family and team, are dynamic and thoughtful. Not only that but they are approachable and available with worlds of ideas stored up waiting to be unleashed the moment I ask.
Before you jump into studying the entire human race, take a look around you. Even people you don’t realize you run next to, like the mailman you see everyday or the Starbucks barista who has your order memorized. Pay attention to people close to you, and lean in. You never know what you’ll find.
I study humanity beyond my sphere.
It would be dishonest should I limit my research of “humanity” to my immediate connections and ignore input from beyond my personal sphere. There’s a lot I don’t understand about cultures other than my own, and I can’t rely on my assumptions to paint an accurate picture of the world. Once I let my inner circle inform my thought processes, it’s time to branch out and dig deeper.
I do this by intentionally planning trips every year to somewhere I’ve never been. Whether that’s one state over or across oceans, I value the experiences gained and lessons learned through travel. Sometimes the best research you can do is jump on a plane, dip your toes into the exotic waters of a new culture, and let the sights and smells of the unknown slap you in the face a few times until you wake up from your shell-shaped way of life.
In tandem with gaining experiences through travel, I try to stay on top of industry trends, new research, and thought provoking conversations via articles, books, and podcasts. This is a very practical method I’ve learned to incorporate into my normal habits in order to stay in the zone of learning on a consistent basis.
I create for humans based on my personal experience and research.
Gather up all of this amazing research, personal experience, and an expanded worldview and you have a lot of material to work with. As a Marketing Strategist, I get to share a brand’s story through creative campaigns and graphics, website design, brand verbiage, and a whole lot more. What I do as a Digital Anthropologist is take all of those things and turn them into captivating human experiences worthy of remark. My goal is to get inside the mind of the person on the other side of the screen and connect the emotional and intellectual dots that make them come alive. If I can speak to that place, I can make a successful human connection despite the boundaries of technological interference.
One massively important aspect to take into account is the danger of assumption. Just because I understand the process I created or feel a certain way about a campaign doesn’t mean the message will be received with the same level of clarity for someone else. That’s why it’s crucial to ask for input, collaborate with your team, and never assume your solution meets everyone’s needs.
Regardless of what you do, adding relationship and connection into the mixture of your work makes art. And it means you’re in it to build a legacy, not just boost your bottom line. In an age where technology is quickly dominating our attention, we have to fight for genuine connection. It takes grit to keep your “why” in front of you when convenience and profitability are the name of the game. At the end of the day, what do you want to be remembered for? Should I pour my heart and soul into building something grand, I would want it to be done for the love of humanity.